Try This at Home:

Hop, Skip, and Jump

Explore how far different movements can take you!

What you’ll need:

  • Open space, preferably outdoors
  • Measuring tape (optional)

Here’s what to do:

  1. Find an open space, like a park or yard, where you have room to jump around.
  2. Pick a starting point and an end point, like two trees that are a distance apart. Mark your starting and finish lines so you remember them.
  3. From your starting line start walking by lining up your feet so the heel of the foot taking a step touches the toes of the foot from the previous step. Count how many of these types of steps it takes to get to the finish line.
  4. From your finish line, walk back to the starting line taking the biggest steps you can without jumping. How many of these types of steps does it take to get back to the starting line?
  5. Try again skipping or taking big jumps forward. Which method of moving covers the most distance in one step?
  6. Do all of these different ways of moving take the same number of steps or jumps to cover the same distance? Why not?
  7. Grab a friend. If you both use the same method (big jumps, small steps, skips) to go from the starting to finish lines, do you both use the same number of steps?

Take it further:

  • Do you use the same number of steps walking forward as you do walking backwards?
  • Is counting steps an accurate way to measure distance? If you use step counting to measure the distance from your room to the kitchen, will you get the same number every time?
  • Which uses more steps – running or walking? Does taking more steps means you covered more distance? How can you tell?

What’s going on?

In this activity, you used the number of steps or jumps to measure distance. Historically, body parts like the width of a finger or the length of a foot were used to measure objects and distances. Can you think of any problems with that system? Is your foot the same size it was last year? Is your foot the same size as your friend’s? Body parts change size as we grow, and not everyone is the same size, so using body parts to measure isn’t a very good system. Everyone’s measurement could be different for the same distance!

Using objects that may not always be the same size, like different people’s feet or palms to measure things is called non-standard measurement. Non-standard measurement may work for comparison of two or more objects; for instance, you can use your palm to tell if one object is wider than another because you used the same palm, yours. However, if you told your parent that your math homework was three palms wide and they measured it with their palm, would it be the same number of their palm wide? Probably not. Standard measurements are defined lengths or weights that never change, so no matter who does the measurement, the number is always the same. Rulers use the standard length of a foot and should all be the same length. The foot was defined as 12 inches in 1959 so everyone could use the same “foot” instead of their own. This created a consistent length to ensure consistent and accurate measurements and is the foot we use today in the United States.

Measuring distance using steps, hops, and jumps are other examples of non-standard measurement. How could you measure the same distance using a standard measurement? If you have a tape measure or meter stick try measuring the distance between your starting and finish lines again. Is the number of feet on the tape measure close to what you counted using heel-to-toe steps?

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