by Katherine LaVange

Converting Customary Units of Length

Goals and Objectives

NC SCOS Objectives

> Multiply and divide fractions, mixed numbers, and decimals.
COMPETENCY GOAL: The learner will demonstrate an understanding and use of the properties and relationships in geometry, and standard units of metric and customary measurement.
> Convert measures of length, area, capacity, weight and time expressed in a given unit to other units in the same measurement system.
> Estimate solutions to problems involving geometry and measurement. Determine when estimates are sufficient for the measurement situation.

Teacher-specified Objectives

Students will:

  • Use previous knowledge of multiplcation and division by participating in a class discussion about conversion and completing a worksheet.
  • Discover how to change from large units to smaller units and from small units to larger units by participating in a class discussion and completing a worksheet.
  • Apply what they learned today about converting units of length by completing the in-class worksheet and the homework assignment.
  • Reflect on how the information learned today relates to real-life situations by writing a journal entry. 



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Materials and Equipment

For this lesson students will need a copy of the attached worksheet to complete during the group practice time.


Safety Issues

For the activity today, students will be working in groups. Make sure each student knows to respect his/her partner as well as those working around them. Each student should contribute equally to the group.

Notes/Reminders to self

For the activity today, let the students pick their own partners, but in certain rows. Monday row and Friday row should find partners, Tuesday row and Thursday row should find partners, and Wednesday row should find partners within their own row. Make sure the students find a spot to work where they can focus and concentrate.

Key Vocabulary/Concepts

The following conversions should be known:

  • inch
  • 1 foot = 12 inches
  • 1 yard = 3 feet
  • 1 mile = 5, 280 feet

The following rules should be known:

  • to change from larger units to smaller units, mulitply.
  • to change from smaller units to larger units, divide.

Instructional Strategy

Focus and Review

Warm-up (distribute rulers) (place warm-up on overhead and have students begin working)


  • Draw a line segment that is 2.5 inches long
  • Draw a line segment that is 3/4 inches long
  • What would be the best unit of measurement to use to measure your height?
  • What would be the best unit of measurement to use to measure the distance from the school to your house?
  • What would be the best unit of measurement to use to measure the length of a paper clip?

After most students are finished (10-15 min), select one student from the cards to roll the dice:

  • 1: 100 if all questions are answered
  • 2: grade
  • 3 and 4: go over
  • 5: draw a card and the student decides to grade or not
  • 6: go over

Statement of Objective

Tell the students, "So far we learned about the different types of measurement and how many of one unit equal another unit. What if I know that my little sister is 3 feet tall, and I want to know how tall she is inches? What about yards? Today we will learn how to convert from one unit to another unit by mulitplying and dividing."

Sequence of Instruction

  • Collect the Problem of the Week (POW) during the warm-up.
  • Hand back Wednesday night's homework and answer any questions.
  • Hand back worksheet from yesterday's class and go over the answers.


  • Check to see that students have homework while they work on the warm-up.
  • Go over selected homework problems.
  • Ask the students if they have any questions, and go over the problems they ask about.


  • Continue with Length in the Customary System. Begin new topic by asking the students, "What do we do if we have a measurement in feet, and we want to know how its length in inches?"
  • Follow with an example: "Suppose I know that my little sister is three feet tall. How tall is she in inches?"
  • Tell students that there are two rules to remember (write in notes) that make it easy to change from one type of measurement to another:

   1) When changing from larger units to smaller units, we multiply.  Write the example on the overhead: 3 feet * 12inches = 36 inches. We multiply by how many smaller units are in 1 of the larger units. In this case, there are 12 inches in 1foot, so we multiply 3 by 12.

   2) When changing from smaller units to larger units, we divide. Give example, and write on overhead: 60 inches = how many feet? We know that there are 12 inches in 1 foot, so we divide by 12. 60 inches / 12 inches = 5 feet. We divide by the number of smaller units there are in 1 of the larger units. In this case, there are 12 inches in 1 foot, so we divide 60 by 12.

Guided Practice

  • Write a few examples on the overhead for the class to work through on their own: 

   1) 3 mi = __?__ ft

   2) 48 in = __?__ ft

   3) 10 ft = __?__ yd

   4) 5 yd = __?__ in:

  • Explain how to do this last one in 2 different ways: either find out how many inches are in 1 yard, or first convert yards to feet, and then feet to inches.

Guided  Practice

  • Allow students to pick partners to work with in the assigned rows.
  • Hand out the Klutz worksheet, one per person.
  • Have the students work in pairs quietly on the assignment.
  • Walk around and monitor the students as they work.

Independent Practice

  • When they finish this worksheet, they can begin on their textbook problems.
  • Textbook problems: p. 269 # 17-18, 22-23, 27
  • Have the students complete the worksheet and the textbook problems for homework.
  • During this time, dismiss class by rows for bathroom break, beginning at 9:40


Closure: Begin at about 9:50

  • Have students take three minutes at the end of class to write about what they learned today. Ask questions to help them get started: 

   1) What did you learn today?

   2) How will this help you in your everyday lives?

   3) How can you relate what you learned today to other subjects?

  • After three minutes, ask for volunteers to share what they wrote with the class. Continue sharing for five minutes, or until it is time to leave.
  • Be sure to leave time for students to go to their cubbies and pack their bags.


Reflection on Lesson

Again, I felt like my lesson was a little too easy for the students. As soon as I asked how many inches were in 3 feet, which was supposed to be the subject of the entire lesson, many students shouted out the correct answer because they already knew how to solve the problem. But, I imagine there were a few students who did not know how to do it, and this is probably what I will run into in my own classroom. However, when I did ask the opening question, the students all sounded eager and inerested in learning about converting units. The other part that could have been changed was the pairing up of the students for the group activity. I tried to compromise and let them pick partners, but assign them rows to pick from. Many students were unhappy with the selection they had and asked to pair up with others. In the end everything worked out, but this is maybe something to try only every now and then. All the students worked on their assignments and I did not have to deal with any students being off topic or with any behavioral issues. The closure at the end of this lesson went well because one student asked how this helped in our everyday lives, and another student volunteered to answer. It was great to see the students eager to help each other out and want to explain things to each other.

Goals and Objectives

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