Customary Measurement: Length

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 11305

Is your foot a foot long? How long is your thumb? How would you measure your yard? Listen to a measurement song and get some online practice as you learn about the measurement system used in the U.S.!



learning style
Auditory, Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


What do these tools have in common?

ruler and tape measure

Throughout the world, there are primarily two types of measurement systems that are used: customary units and metric units.

In the United States, customary units, such as inches, feet, pounds, and gallons, are used. The rest of the world relies on the metric system of measurement. Metric units include centimeters, kilometers, grams, and liters. In this series, you will learn about the customary system of measurement used in the United States.

Look at the question in the beginning of the lesson. Can you guess what type of measurement you will be learning about in this lesson by looking at the question and pictures? If you know the answer, tell your teacher or parent.

In this lesson, you will be learning about customary units of length. A ruler and a tape measurer are both used to measure length. You will learn about the different tools used to measure length later in the lesson. For now, let's define length and find out what are customary units of length.

Length describes the distance from one point to another point. Length can be as short as the distance from your eye to your nose, or it can be as long as the distance from the United States to China. Since distances of length can vary so much, scientists and mathematicians created different units of length that are used depending on how much length needs to be measured.

The different customary units of length are inches, feet, yards, and miles. Think about all the ways you have used or have heard these terms used. Tell your teacher or parent about a time when you think you would use each unit.

Make a thumbs-up sign with your hand. Then, move the tip of your thumb down. The distance from your knuckle to the tip of your thumb is about one inch. Inches are used to measure small objects, such as books, pencils, or a placemat.

The next customary unit used to measure length is a foot. There are 12 inches in a foot. The distance from your elbow to your hand is about one foot. Feet are used to measure small and medium-sized objects, such as people, the size of a room, or the length of a couch.

Another unit used to measure length is a yard. There are three feet in a yard. If there are three feet in a yard, can you figure out how many inches are in a yard? Tell the answer to your teacher or parent.

There are 36 inches in a yard. Yards are used to measure large distances, such as a football field or garden.

Finally, miles are also used to measure length. There are 5,280 feet in a mile. Miles are used to measure very large distances. Typically, when miles are being used, you are unable to see the other point you are measuring to from the starting point. Examples of when to use miles include figuring out the distance from your house to the market,or the distance from California to Florida.

Let's get ready to look at some more examples of when to use each unit of length. Copy the following chart onto a separate piece of paper:







You are going to listen to a song about length, Inches, Feet and Yards Song ? Measurement by NUMBEROCK. The song will provide lots of examples about when to use inches, feet, yards, and miles. As you listen to the song, write the examples you hear in the correct column on the chart:


When you are finished listening to the song, add any of examples of length that you can think of to your chart. Then, review your chart with a teacher or parent. Can they think of any examples that can be added to the chart?

Finally, make a list of all the tools you can think of that are used to measure length. Remember to include the two examples from the beginning of the lesson on your list. Discuss your list with a teacher or parent.

There are three main tools used for measuring length: rulers, yardsticks, and tape measurers.

  • Rulers are usually a foot long. They are used to measure inches or exactly one foot.
  • Yardsticks are a yard long. They are used to measure feet and inches or exactly one yard.
  • Tape measurers can vary in size but are usually several yards long. They are used to measure in yards, feet, and inches.

You now know the different customary units used for measuring length, and the tools used for measuring length. Move on to the Got It? section to learn more about when to use each unit and how to use these tools to measure length.

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