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Grade 1: Measuring With Nonstandard Units


Students will be able to:

  • Measure the length and width  of objects using nonstandard units (e.g., paper clips); and
  • Use nonstandard measurements to compare the length of various objects.

Time Required: 40 minutes


  • 15–20 one-inch paper clips for each pair of students (or other classroom items of consistent length of which there is a large classroom supply, such as snap cubes, place value rods, etc.)
  • One unsharpened and one sharpened pencil
  • Worksheet 1.1: “Pickle Party!”


  1. Show the class an unsharpened pencil (or other common classroom item of your choice). Ask how long the pencil is. Assuming a student suggests using a ruler or measuring tape, ask if there is a way to measure the pencil if a ruler isn’t available.
  2. Show the class a paper clip and ask if it could be used to measure the pencil. Discuss with the class, and then model how to place the clips end-to-end to measure the pencil. Be sure to point out that the starting edge of the paper clip must be lined up with one end of the pencil. If necessary, measure another classroom item using the paper clips.