What do those metric prefixes mean?!

Another year comes to a close. It was a whirlwind year. Next year I want to focus on cutting down on paper and increasing student critical thinking and reading.

The first unit is on the scientific method. We’re starting with measuring. I’ve tried this activity two years in a row: https://teachingphysics.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/creating-a-unit-of-measure-to-teach-measurement/ This year it went better. Worked for some but definitely not for those that are in the concrete stage. They just failed to generalize the process to the metric system as a whole. So I’m trying a more concrete thinkers targeted lab. I’m planning on introducing the inquiry style lab and accompanying lab write up next so hopefully my conceptual thinkers won’t tune out all together before the end of the first unit.

Concrete Activity for Metric Prefixes:


Here is the activity: MeterStick Activity (PDF) , Meterstick Activity (Word) They will be provided with cm graph paper ( centimeter that I made here  http://www.printfreegraphpaper.com/ ) and a meter long strip of paper.

Day 1: Pass out lab at door as they enter. PowerPoint: Measurement Activity

Warm Up and discussion (5 min):

Take a poll and record on board. .Ask how long is a meter? Take answers from students. Have one student from each pair come and get a meter strip and measure desk. Is it more or less than a meter? How much more or less. Discuss how they decided how much more or less.

Lab (35)

Lab Intro (3 min): Discuss roles. Have the partners pick roles and read first set directions out loud to partner. Take questions.Explain time limit.

  1.  (10min): Start timer and let them do first set of measurement.  (Put centimeter strips on tables while they are measuring)
  2.  (10 min): When the timer goes off they return to desk and read the directions for the next step. As they are reading. Take questions. Make it clear they may start measuring as soon as the decimeters are ready. Start measurement timer next. (put sheets of centimeter paper on desks while they are measuring)
  3. (12 min): Students return to read directions for centimeters. Pass out centimeter papers while they are reading. Take questions. Next they complete measurements in Centimeters and enter into classroom data table.

Lab Completion: When finished they complete the back page of the lab

Exit Ticket

Day 2:

Warm Up (5 min)

Data Analysis (15 Min)

  1. Discussion (5 min) Look at class data and provide accepted values for % error calculations. Discuss class data as precise and accurate. Average data in excel. Is it close to the accepted value? Are they clustered close together? Have students mark which of their measurements they think is most precise.
  2. Calculating % Error (10 min): Model using the equation for the first measurement. Then have them calculate % error for the rest of their centimeter measurements. Circle the most precise.(We’ll move on to metric prefixes at this point. While they are calculating, I’ll hand out the metric prefixes sheet)

. Metric Prefixes Practice:

I’m only planning on introducing the meters at this point. I want to give them time to make some personal points of reference for the meter since we’re working on 1D and 2D motion next. I found this example on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-h3gYI6zls

I liked the layout but, after conferring with a more senior teacher, decided it’d be best if they write the whole measurement in each square in hopes they will see the pattern more clearly. Here is an example of the practice sheet and answer document: metric prefixes

The plan is to generate 6 unique practice sheets with a unique identifier at the bottom. I will demonstrate the 1st row. We will do the 2nd together. They will individually work the third. After working the third, they will meet in groups with the same sheets and peer assess their work (I’ll be working the room to ensure all are arriving at the right answer and use questioning to guide them if necessary). After peer assessment, they will work the 4th in their group. Then return to their seats and work the rest independently. The exit ticket will be a strip with one problem. Again they will all vary. Any suggestions or questions? Please share!

To make unique sheets easier to generate, I made a spreadsheet that populates the sheet with random numbers between 0 and 100. Then the key is populated with all the answers. If your interested in using the excel sheet feel free to buy it here: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Generate-unique-Metric-Prefixes-or-Place-Value-Practice-Sheets-1878086

Metric Practice Plan (After Data Analysis)

  1. I do 1. We do 2. They  do 3. (5 min)
  2. They break into peer groups based on identifier on sheet. And peer assess 3. In group they work 4. (10 min)
  3. Return to seats and complete sheet. (10min)

2 thoughts on “What do those metric prefixes mean?!”

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