Math Journal Sundays - Metric Conversions

27 January 2013
I don't know why, but I LOVE teaching concepts when there's a great little mnemonic device to go with it.  This week we've been studying metric conversions, so I turned to my good friend, "King Henry" to lend us a hand.

I really liked the staircase idea I did for the math journals last year (you can read more about how I teach metric conversions HERE and see our journal entry for last year HERE), so I really had to think to come up with a different idea for our journals this year.  And then inspiration hit ... we LOVED the Pop-Up Bar Graphs we made, so we made a Pop-Up Staircase to help us remember the metric prefixes - it also works as a great manipulative to get students "walking" through the steps.

For this interactive tool, you have to fold a piece of paper in half (we also trimmed a little bit off the side so it fit better in our notebooks).  With the paper folded in half, draw two 12cm parallel lines down the page.  Divide this into 6 sections (2 cm each).  Do the same on the other side.  Cut down the 12cm lines (NOT all the way to the bottom of the page) and when you open the paper, you have 2 slits down the page (24cm long).  Fold the paper back and forth (accordion style) along each of the sections you made ... and watch the magic staircase appear!  We labelled each step with the metric prefix - and we wrote the mnemonic device on the side of each step to help the students remember - King Henry Doesn't Usually (units) Drink Chocolate Milk.

What a GREAT addition to our Math Journals!  For the proof section of our journals, I asked the students to solve 3 different metric conversions - one going up the staircase, one going down the staircase, and one of their own choice.  For the reflection section, we used my newest set of question fans:  Math Reflection Fans.  I chose a question from the "Understand" section, and put it under the document camera to project it for the class.  Students had to write about the new information they learned and give an example of it.

And there you have it!  Now, some of my students did have a little trouble with this foldable because it was a little complicated, but I was able to pair up those students with a student who had already finished it. 

I've been using the metric staircase for YEARS to help my students with metric conversions, so I would love some new ideas ... how do you teach metric conversions to your class?? 

Happy Sunday!!!



  1. I LOVE LOVE LOVE how the fans have these built in questions, so the students don't have to sit and think about what you want them to do for too long. Excellent tie in.

    And the staircase is SO cute! You are so creative. Seriously, where does it all come from???

    Teaching in Room 6

  2. Beyond impressed! We are departmentalized and I teach reading but you make me WANT to teach math! I even downloaded your Math Reflection Fan yesterday, lol. Thanks so much for all the great ideas!

    Teaching with a Touch of Twang

  3. I will be using this great stairs idea on Wednesday. Thanks for posting it.

  4. I have been using your "Interactive Math Journals" since September. My students LOVE it! It is probably the best thing I have done for my teaching practice this year.

    I find metric conversions can be so challenging for students. One thing that has worked for my students is to teach them to create equivalent fractions and use proportional reasoning. That way, they never have to memorize anything or remember which way the decimal "moves".

    For example:

    540g/1000g = xkg/1kg They are really good at solving for x using equivalent fractions, somehow that always makes sense to them, so I use that for conversion.

    I use the same method to teach them how to solve probability questions. They quickly discover that this method works for all proportional reasoning situations.

  5. Thank you for sharing! We have just started measurement but not this section- time, and then area and perimeter.

    When I teach conversion I usually do the staircase as well but not as a three- dimensional. Will have to incorporate it like this into the math notebooks this year!

    My students refer back to their notebooks all of the time when they are stuck or need a little reminder. I can see this helping them with this concept!

    Love the picture of your fan question through the document camera. Sadly, mine has disappeared from my cart at school. :( I am going on an all out hunt tomorrow. Have a good week! Jen

  6. I teach Maths in Spain, in a Bilingual Section: that means we use english as well as spanish in class.
    I've just finished this lesson and for me a good way of practising metric conversions is a table that I have laminated with the prefixes in order, so that the students write one digit in each square, finishing in the square of the unit given. They can read this number in any unit without doing any multiplication or division. That alse goes very well when working with decimal numbers and converting tens to hundredths, etc...

  7. Jen,
    I am so happy to have found you! I was reading through several of your posts and I LOVE your CRAFT board menu!!! I am doing CAFE with my first graders and LOVE it! Thank you for sharing your classroom with us! So excited to be your newest follower!
    Ms. Marciniak's First Grade Critter Cafe

  8. Jen,
    Thank you for all your hard work posting about your interactive notebooks. Stumbling across your blog in the summer motivated me to try the notebooks in my classroom this year and it has been wonderful. The students truly enjoy the hands on. Thank you for being a motivation.
    Middlehood Madness

  9. Hi Jen,

    I'm a new fan of yours! Love your ideas! I just purchased your math journal and was prompted to download Adobe Reader. For some reason, that was unsuccessful. Now, how do I get back to downloading your math journal, w/o paying for it again?

    Thanks, Camie
    (916) 275-0806

  10. OK, nevermind, I got it!! Wow, 158 pages?!

  11. Hello, I'm wondering what's on page 11 & hooked in by the brad? Do you have a link to a blog post about that page?

    I'm using the staircase next Monday. Thanks tons!


  12. AWESOME!!! Thank you so very much for sharing!

  13. I love this! There are so many ways I can use it and it is a great visual/hands-on project for students. Thank you for sharing!