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Age Range: 7-11
Duration: 60 or more mins
  • Maths

Measure distance

Make a measuring wheel that measures distances

In this engaging STEM activity for kids, learners will make a measuring wheel for accurately measuring distance, also known as an odometer.

This activity is aimed at primary school children and could be used as a main lesson activity to introduce the characteristics of a circle, to contribute to learning about measurement or to teach learners about how the ancient Greeks have affected life in the modern world.

Activity introduction

This is one of a set of resources designed to allow learners to use practical methods to support the delivery of key topics within design and technology, and maths. This resource is based on making a measuring wheel capable of measuring metres and centimetres.

The teacher will first introduce the activity to the class, outlining how to calculate the circumference of a circle and using maths principles from ancient Greece to measure everyday objects.

Learners will work in pairs to make a circle, marking out intervals of 10cm using a piece of string. They will then use a ruler to join up opposite marks around the wheel with the end result being a segmented wheel.

Students will add measurements to the wheel to make reading easier and use nuts, bolts, and washers to attach a handle.

Learners will then be able to evaluate the accuracy of their measuring wheel by testing it over a known distance.

Things your will need

  • Cardboard
  • Pencil and pens
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Tape and PVA
  • Large bolt, nut and two washers
  • String

The engineering context

The action of measuring anything, or a certain number of objects, is a measurement. Measurement is fundamental to the sciences; to engineering and construction; and to almost all everyday activities. For example, pilots need to know how far an aeroplane must fly, so they can work out how much fuel needs to be in the plane.

The Ancient Greece connection

This activity is inspired by the achievements of ancient Greece. The ancient Greeks influenced the modern world in many ways and made important contributions to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It is thought that the inventor of the odometer may have been Archimedes, between 2200 and 2300 years ago.

An odometer refers to an instrument for measuring the distance travelled by a wheeled vehicle. Variations of this device were used widely in ancient times to measure distances – some of these measurements in historical records are now known to be just a few percent different from measurements taken using modern technology, indicating the accuracy of the device.

Suggest learning outcomes

By the end of this activity students will be able to understand the basic calculation involved in determining the circumference of a circle and they will be able to measure a distance using a measuring tool.

Download the free activity sheet below!

All activity sheets and supporting resources are free to download, and all the documents are fully editable, so you can tailor them to your students’ and your schools’ needs.

The activity sheet includes teacher notes, guidance, useful web links, and links (where appropriate) to the national curriculum in each of the four devolved UK nations; England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Please share your classroom learning highlights with us @IETeducation.

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