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Cubit Measures
Make a 21" cubit measuring stick, subdivided into digits and palms to measure and record objects in the classroom. For early elementary students.

Nancy Tanke, Harlan Elementary School, Bloomfield Hills


ActivityThis lesson is part of our extended study of ancient and modern-day Egypt which lasted 12 weeks. The making of the cubit measure took about half an hour or less with the lessons leading up to it being about 20 minutes each day. The first day we read the Mathmagic Section of The How and Why Library [see Preparation and Resources]. The second day we sold gold and the third day we built a structure. The fourth day we made the cubit measure and the fifth day we measured with them.


Give each student one:
  • 21" piece of wood 1 1/2" wide
  • fine line black magic marker
  • 3/4" digit and 3" palm templates
  • number cards

To make cubit measures, students lay 3/4" digit template on one end of wood to mark first digit; repeat until the board is divided into 28 digits marks. Then turn the board over and use 3" template to mark reverse side in 7 palms. We used the Egyptian numbers to identify each unit [click to see Egyptian Number Chart]. The teacher makes a cubit measure as the students make theirs so that they understand.

When the cubit measures were completed, we worked in small groups. I had sorted the number cards so that several numbers were placed under each of the three unit cards; students drew a number card from the "digits" pile and located something in the classroom that was the length on the card. (For example, a piano key was measured for one digit). Then they drew a number card from the "palms" card pile and measured an item in the room that was that length. Finally, they drew a number card from the "cubits" pile and measured something in the room (Mrs. Smith is 3 cubits long!)

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