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Handy Measuring Ratio

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    The Exploratorium

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Handy Measuring Ratio

In this activity, learners use their hands as tools for indirect measurement. Learners explore how to use ratios to calculate the approximate height of something that can't be measured directly by first measuring something that can be directly measured. This activity can also be used to explain how scientists use indirect measurement to determine distances between things in the universe that are too far away, too large or too small to measure directly (i.e. diameter of the moon or number of bacteria in a volume of liquid).

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 14

Resource Type:


Materials List (per group of students)


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Astronomy
      • Size and Scale
  • Mathematics
    • Algebra
      • Equations and Inequalities
    • Geometry
      • Plane Geometry
    • Measurement
      • Units of Measurement
      • Size and Scale
    • Number and Operations
    • Problem Solving
    • Representation
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data

Informal Categories

  • Outdoor Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All Rights Reserved, Exploratorium, ©2010

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation
  • Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation


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