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Using inchworms to help learn about, um, inches 

Kent City — “I’m ready to be observant!”

“I’m a mathematician!”

“My tools will be precise!”

The second-graders in teacher Dani Tanner’s classroom repeated this mantra with gusto as they began a recent lesson on estimation, comparison and measurement — and inchworms. 

“We’re in math class, but we’re going to learn about worms first. Meet the inchworm!” Tanner told the class, to a chorus of small giggles. 

After checking out photos of inchworms and learning about how they can camouflage themselves in nature, Tanner showed them an “inchworm ruler” — a colorful creation featuring several inchworms lined up, end to end. Compared to a regular ruler, she asked the students, what things are the same or different on this inchworm ruler?

Lauretta quickly pointed out that the units were the same on each ruler; each had 12 numbers, or inches, on them. 

Daniel noticed some differences: The inchworm ruler had a green and yellow pattern on it, he said. It also had drawings of worms, compared to Tanner’s regular classroom ruler. 

Then, the fun part: Each student got to make their own inchworm ruler, using scissors, glue and precise measurements to make sure that their math tools were accurate. Tanner said the students would next make some estimates about classroom items that are shorter or longer than one foot in length, and then use their inchworm ruler to actually measure and see how close their estimates were. 

Why inchworms? “I think it’s just more engaging than the regular ruler,” Tanner said. “We’re going to eventually move to the regular ruler for measurements, but it’s helpful for them to have a picture in their mind of the worm, to use something that’s more fun and colorful, before we get to just the numbers.” 

Read more from Kent City: 
Filling students’ buckets with praise
Varied interests, goals, all nurtured at school

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Beth Heinen Bell
Beth Heinen Bell
Beth Heinen Bell is associate editor, reporter and copy editor. She is an award-winning journalist who got her professional start as the education reporter for the Grand Haven Tribune. A Calvin University graduate and proud former Chimes editor, she later returned to Calvin to help manage its national writing festival. Beth has also written for The Grand Rapids Press and several West Michigan businesses and nonprofits. She is fascinated by the nuances of language, loves to travel and has strong feelings about the Oxford comma. Read Beth's full bio


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