Measuring Distance in Units: A 1st Grade Math Lesson Plan

Measuring Distance in Units: A 1st Grade Math Lesson Plan
Page content

Following the Common Core Standards, students will practice measuring by laying the unit of measurement end to end. Then they will organize the data they have collected and interpret it.


  1. Express the length of an object as a whole number of length units by laying the length unit end to end. MA1-MD
  2. Organize, represent and interpret data with up to three categories: ask and answer questions about the total number of data points, how many in each category, and how many more or less are in one category than in another. MA1-MD-4
  3. Attend to precision: As young children begin to develop their mathematical communication skills, they try to use clear and precise language in their discussions with others and when they explain their own reasoning. MP.6


  • Paper plates (inexpensive ones)
  • Straws
  • Glue sticks
  • Paper and pencil
  • Sheet of bulletin board paper - Write a list of the students’ names horizontally across the bottom.
  • Small circles (1” diameter) cut out in three colors (red, yellow and blue) of construction paper. Make several patterns/templates and have the students cut out the amount they need.


  • Unit of length
  • End to end
  • Compare
  • Data
  • Organize

Lesson Procedure

Say, “Today we are going to do a measurement activity with partners. One person in the pair will take one turn and then both of you will measure. Then the other person will write down the result. Then you will trade places. Later we will collect the data. Our unit of length today is this straw.”

Hold up a straw. Call on two students to learn and demonstrate how to measure putting the straws end to end then moving each straw to the next end while counting the number of times you repeat this. Pairs can practice measuring a few small items in the classroom.

Say, “Today we are going to measure how far your flying saucer will go! (Hold up the paper plate.) Think before you fly because you are only allowed one turn!” You may want to allow one practice toss if you have a small, manageable class.

Put students in pairs and give them one paper plate, a piece of paper and a pencil. Instruct the students to write their names on the plate.

Students should spread out around the room. One student tosses the plate. Together they will measure and then the other student will write down the number of units. Repeat.

When completed, the students should take one piece of construction paper and cut out the amount of circles (all the same color) that represents the units the saucer flew. So if Natalie’s saucer flew ten units of length she would cut out 10 circles of all the same color.

Next the students will glue the circles in a straight row vertically going up from their names. This makes a bar graph.

To avoid a jam up of children gluing on the circles, you may want to allow only a few at a time while the others decorate the flyer saucers just for fun.

Interpret the Results

Gather the students together in front of the bar graph that they made. Say, “Now it is time to interpret our results. That means we are going to look at the data, the information that we collected, and be able to answer questions and understand the information. When you answer a question, be able to prove with the data that your answer is correct.”

  • Whose flying saucer went the farthest? How many units did it fly?
  • Whose saucer flew the shortest distance?
  • Now look at the red circles and see whose flying saucer flew the farthest. What is the difference in the amount that it flew compared to the red one that flew the shortest distance?
  • Which yellow saucer flew the shortest distance?
  • Which color group had the longest flights?
  • If I asked you to add up the shortest distance flights in each color group, how would you find the answer?

Add some extra questions of your own based on any trends you see on your particular classroom bar graph.