Aboriginal Perspectives


Non-Standard Linear Measurement

Jessica Wesaquate and Andrea Rogers



Grade Level:



Students will be able to acquire data by measuring with non-standard items.
Students will be able to use their hand as a method of measurement for length and width.

Students will be able to measure the length and width of assorted items using their hand cut out.

Students will be able to understand a different method of measurement for length and width.


video clip, construction paper, scissors, pencils, various items to measure, handout (created by teacher) See: handout 1.0 example at bottom of page for example

Cultural Background:

(play clip entitled "measuring the first pole")
After placing the tipi pole down the middle of the canvas, Elder Glen indicates that you must hold the canvas in place a hands width from the bottom of the pole so that once the tipi is erected the canvas isn't hanging on the ground.  The canvas stretches, so you must leave room for it to stretch.  In the past, Indian peoples didn't have the measurement tools we have today, such as rulers and measuring tapes; therefore they used what they had.  Using your hand is a method of measurement.


On construction paper, have students trace their hand (fingers together and thumb close in) and then cut it out.  This will be used as a non-standard measuring tool for items around the classroom.  If you have cultural items available to measure, great, but if not this can be used for basically anything.  For example, if you have a rain stick in your classroom have students measure how many hand prints long it is.  Remember to share background on the meaning of the rain stick so they understand its significance.  Other items you can measure are things like their desks, tables, drawers, windows, and etcetera. 

You can set up stations for this activity so that students are not trying to measure the same thing all at the same time, also so that you can take anecdotal records on the way they measure items*, behaviors, other.

*Do they measure items with the hand vertically or horizontally, do they use the width of their hand cut-out or the length of it?


anecdotal/observation records, handout.

Handout 1.0


Length of item:

Width of item:

Rain Stick



Floor Tile



Talking Stick



Large Rock



You can also use many other items as a non-standard measurement tools such as cube links, a pencil, string...your classroom will be filled with items!