Thursday, March 7, 2013

Math Play: Statue of Liberty Measuring


No trip to New York City is complete without a trip to see the Statue of Liberty. So, as part of our virtual trip, we let the Statue of Liberty inspire a fun math experiment. The question we tried to answer: how many Lizzies (or AJs) would it take to be as tall as Lady Liberty?

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We began with a simple book, Statue of Liberty by Lynda Sorensen, to learn all about this famous American symbol. (Edited to add: this book is unfortunately out of print. The Statue of Liberty by Lloyd G. Douglas would be a good substitute.) We learned about when it was built and how it was shipped to America. We learned about what it represents. But, most importantly to this experiment, we also learned how tall it is: 305 feet. I got out the calculator and translated it into inches: 3660 inches tall. Then I measured each girl in inches.


Next, using a roll of brown wrapping paper, we made a scale model of the Statue of Liberty at 36.6 inches. Now it was time to measure. We talked a bit about nonstandard units of measurement. We weren't going to use a ruler to measure; we were going to use ourselves. I made tiny squares to stand for each of the girls. (And when I say tiny, they were less than 1/2/"!)



I showed the girls how to measure with their squares. We laid it down, drew a line along the top, and then placed the square on top of that line. They moved up and up and up until they reached the top. When we were done, we counted out spaces. Lizzie topped off at 62, and AJ at 64. They were wowed!



But were we correct? Well, I'll admit I expected we were not. The girls at 3 and 5 weren't exactly precise. But, they did their best and definitely learned a lot. They were able to better visualize just how tall the Statue of Liberty is and they learned a fun lesson in nonstandard units of measurement. How far off were we? About 10 units for each girl. Not bad for a preschooler and a Kindergartner using tiny pieces of paper! I think the next time we use nonstandard units, we'll try measuring with our full bodies!

Have you ever measured with nonstandard units?

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