Aboriginal Perspectives


Nonstandard Units

Jessica Wesaquate

Subject Area:



Shape and Space (Measurement)

Grade Level:



Main Objective:

Students will describe and compare everyday phenomena, using direct or indirect measurement.

General Outcome:

Estimate, measure and compare, using standard units for length and primarily nonstandard units for other measures.

Specific Outcomes:

  1. Estimate, measure, record and compare the area of shapes, using nonstandard units.

  2. Construct a shape given a specific area in nonstandard units.

  3. Estimate, measure, record, compare and order the capacity of containers, using nonstandard units.


Activity One:
Multiple copies of 2 individual birch bark-biting samples, empty cereal box

Activity Two:
Geo boards, elastics, picture of a red river cart

Activity Three:
Lacrosse balls, tennis balls, golf balls, a medium-size container

Activity/lesson Ideas:

  1. Print off copies of an individual birch bark biting. Cut them out. Have students estimate how many of the birch bark biting cutouts are needed to cover the face of a cereal box. Once they have estimated, have them check by counting how many cutouts it took. Now print off copies of another individual birch bark biting (should differ by size). Have students estimate if it will take more or less of this biting to cover the box. Why? They can check and count.

  2. Blow up a picture of a red river cart for the class, and/or print off individual copies for students. Click here to link to a picture of a red river cart. Using geo boards and elastics, have students demonstrate the shapes they see in the red river cart. How many different shapes could they find? Did some students find more than others?

  3. Using the following units: lacrosse balls, tennis balls and golf balls, fill a container and count the number of units that fit each time. These results can be graphed. Have a discussion in regards to the differences found in the graph.

    One of the units for this activity is the lacrosse ball. Lacrosse is Canada’s National sport. It originated from First Nations people. Students can learn about how it came to be, what materials were originally used and you could even facilitate a game with them in physical education class.