Teaching with the Web:
A Collection of Online Treasure Hunts and Webquests

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The History of Measurements: An Online Treasure Hunt for 1st Year High School (Mathematics)

Authored by P. Arinto


Introduction
Have you ever wondered how the units of measure we use today came about? Where did the inch come from? Who first started using the meter? Who decided that the kilo should be the unit of measure for weight? Why do we measure time in seconds?

We tend to take standard units of measure for granted. If we knew how difficult things used to be because people measured things differently, we would be more appreciative of our current system of measuring things.

In this activity, we will find out how the standard system of measurement we use today evolved or developed. We will find out the origins of certain units of measure and how and why the old units of measure have been replaced.

The activity is simple. Working in groups of three members each, you will look for the answers to some questions in the websites given below (under Online Resources). The sequencing of the websites is not the same as the sequencing of questions. It is best that you read the questions several times to make sure you understand each and then read the websites to look for the answers. Simply click on the URL or address to access the website.

When you have found all of the answers to all of the questions, answer the Big Question found at the bottom of this page.

Remember to work together as a group. Make sure everybody gets to participate in this activity.

Questions
  1. Who invented the oldest place value system known to humankind? What is the difference between this place value system and the one we use today?
  2. What was the principal reason for the decline in the use of body parts in measuring things?
  3. Precious stones are measured in carats. Where did the word “carat” come from?
  4. Which prefix in the metric system means one part of a hundred?
  5. How many mana are there in 10 kilos of rice?
  6. How are improvements to the metric system made?

Resources
Babylonian (Mathematics)
http://hvhs.nbed.nb.ca/hodgin/number_systems/babylonian.htm

Old Babylonian Weights and Measures
http://it.stlawu.edu/~dmelvill/mesomath/obmetrology.html

History of Measurement
http://ellerbruch.nmu.edu/CS255/JONIEMI/metricsystem.html

A History of Measurement and Metrics
http://www.cftech.com/BrainBank/OTHERREFERENCE/WEIGHTSandMEASURES/MetricHistory.html

Department of Weights and Measures: General Information
http://www.brocktonmass.com/weights/history.html

History of Measurement
http://www.bnm.fr/version_anglaise/pages/measurement/history.htm

The Big Question
One of the things we learned from reading the online resources or websites given above is that before the adoption of a universal system, different groups of people developed different units of measure. Find out what unusual (not following the metric system) units of measure have been or are being used by Filipinos (for example, using sardine cans instead of regular cups to measure how much rice to cook). Ancient units of measure, or those used by early Filipinos, are included.

Pick one traditional Filipino unit of measure (there are many areas to choose from: time, volume, length, weight, temperature, etc.) and write about it in a report. Describe the unit of measure you chose in terms of when, where and how it is/was used; what it is/was made of; and what is the equivalent modern unit of measure. Include a photo or drawing.

Sources of information you can use are books, magazines, and websites, as well as local experts whom you can interview, such as your grandmother or grandfather and people who sell things in the market. Be sure to include a list of your sources in your report. Be guided by the format for listing or citing sources given in this website: http://zonorus.marlboro.edu/~ewood/design1/fluquest/process/biblio.htm.

You must work together on this report. You must all agree on which unit of measure to report on. And each member should have some participation in the research work. The following division of research tasks among group members is suggested:

Member #1 – will look for information in books, magazines and other printed sources
Member #2 – will look for information in websites
Member #3 – will get the photo or make the drawing and write the caption

If your group decides to interview someone for information, you must do the interview as a group.

In writing the report, each one of your should take charge of one portion:

Member #1 – will write about what the unit of measure looks like and/or what it is made of
Member #2 - will write the part about when and where it is/was used
Member #3 – will write about how it is/was used and/or the equivalent standard or modern unit of measure

You have two weeks for researching and writing this report.

Your report will be graded using the following rubric:

Criteria Very Good
(5 points)
Good
(3 points)
Needs Improvement
(1 point)
Content The report includes all of the details required (when and where used, what it is made of, how it is used, and what is the equivalent standard or unit of measure).

There is one photo or drawing.

A list of sources used is included.
Most of the required details are included.

It is only the photo/drawing that is missing, or only the list of sources is missing.
Few of the required details are included.

There is no photo or drawing.

A list of sources is not included.
Organization Information is presented in a logical way. There is a clear beginning, middle, and end to the report. Most of the information is presented in a logical way. The information is not arranged logically. Or the information is arranged in a way that confuses the reader.
Mechanics The report is written in complete and grammatical sentences.

There is correct use of punctuation.

Words are spelled correctly.
Most of the report is written in complete and grammatical sentences.

Most of the punctuation used is correct.

There are few errors in spelling.
There are many grammatical errors.

There are many errors in punctuation and spelling.
 

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