2. Letting pupils plan their investigations

When exploring a topic such as measuring, it is important not to rush on to new concepts but to give pupils time to consolidate their learning and practise newly learned skills. This section provides more ways to explore pupils’ understanding and abilities to measure length in different contexts.

Here, you will ask pupils to make comparisons between measures and think about any links. By using the same groups for a series of activities, you can discover whether they see the similarity between the investigations and are able to use the data and the strategies they used before.

Case Study 2: Organising pupils’ own investigations

Mrs Baguna decided to undertake a measuring task with her class but provide less guidance than she had before. She wanted them to be more independent and to use the skills learned from previous tasks. She decided she would listen carefully as they discussed how to proceed and find out who was volunteering to do tasks. She was interested to know who realised they could use the previous knowledge and ways of working for the new task.

She thought carefully about what task to set. The head teacher had talked of moving the school fence and school gate on one side of the grounds to a place he said was nearer, to help save money. Mrs Baguna was not sure it was nearer and she decided this was a real problem to use with her class.

She set the problem in the morning and told her pupils they could work on it until the end of the day. They also had to do their language work but she said they could choose in which order to work. As she only had two long tape measures borrowed from the education offices, it limited the number of groups that could work with these at any one time. They could use other ways to measure, such as rope or string. She was pleased with how well they organised themselves and, as they worked, she noticed who understood the problem and how to solve it. All the groups agreed that the new site for the path was much nearer. She then asked them to work out how much money would be saved from the path.

They took their investigation to the head teacher who was very pleased with the information.

Activity 2: Investigating height against arm-span

Begin by telling your pupils that you have another investigation for them to do in the same groups as before.

Ask them to find out if this statement is true:

‘Your height is the same as the distance between your fingertips with your arms outstretched.’

Ask them to discuss in their groups:

  • How they could check these statements?
  • What are they going to be measuring?
  • What units of measurement should they use?
  • How will they organise the work?
  • How will they record their results?

Next, ask them to do the investigation together, or at different times (depending on your resources), and go around and listen to them as they work, supporting them if they are having difficulty. Ask them to show how they worked out the answer. Display their answers.

Discuss with them what you have observed about how they worked as groups.

How can you help them work better in groups? (See Key Resource: Using group work in the classroom [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .)

1. Organising an investigation

3. Assessing understanding of length