by Ota Lutz
Ota Lutz is a former high school mathematics teacher and has worked in NASA education outreach for 10 years.
One of my favorite activities for young children is "Rockets by Size" from NASA's "3, 2, 1 ... Liftoff!" educator guide. Children cut out rockets (designs provided), compare rocket heights and use the rockets to measure objects in the room. I like this activity because it's fun for kids, it gives basic math practice and it's easy for parents and teachers to oversee. It works best for children in kindergarten and first grade.
Doing the simplest version of this activity requires these basic items: copy of the rockets graphic (see activity), scissors, construction paper and glue. Children cut out the rockets, order them from largest to smallest and glue them on the construction paper. Children can then color the rockets and write a sentence about them, such as "The orange rocket is taller than the green rocket." You can also do comparisons by having them measure objects like a chair or desk and compare the size with that of the rockets. This challenges them to see which rocket requires the fewest "stacks" to reach the height of the table.
A full activity description and additional measurement activities can be found at: