Read more about the purpose of the MAP Classroom Challenges

Estimating Length Using Scientific Notation

Mathematical goals

This lesson unit is intended to help you assess how well students are able to:

  • Estimate lengths of everyday objects.
  • Convert between decimal and scientific notation.
  • Make comparisons of the size of numbers expressed in both decimal and scientific notation.


The lesson unit is structured in the following way:

  • Before the lesson, students work individually on an assessment task that is designed to reveal their current understanding and difficulties. You then review their responses and create questions for students to consider in order to improve their work.
  • After a whole-class introduction, students work in small groups on a collaborative task matching measurements expressed in decimal and scientific notation. They then match these measurements to everyday objects.
  • Students then make comparisons between the objects by investigating the size of one object in relation to another. To end the lesson there is a whole-class discussion.
  • In a follow-up lesson, students work alone again on a similar task to the introductory task.

Materials required

  • Each student will need a copy of the assessment tasks Size It Up and Resize It Up!, a mini-whiteboard, a pen, and an eraser.
  • Each small group of students will need Card Set A: Measurements, Card Set B: Objects, Card Set C: Comparisons (all cards cut out before the lesson), a large sheet of paper, and a glue stick.
  • There is a projector resource to support whole-class discussions.

Time needed

15 minutes before the lesson for the assessment task, a 75-minute lesson, and 15 minutes in a follow-up lesson (or for homework). Timings given are only approximate. Exact timings will depend on the needs of the class.

Mathematical Practices

This lesson involves a range of mathematical practices from the standards, with emphasis on:

Mathematical Content

This lesson asks students to select and apply mathematical content from across the grades, including the content standards:


Lesson (complete)

Projector Resources

A draft Brief Guide for teachers and administrators (PDF) is now available, and is recommended for anybody using the MAP Classroom Challenges for the first time.

We have assigned lessons to grades based on the Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Content. During this transition period, you should use your judgement as to where they fit in your current course.

The Beta versions of the MAP Lesson Units may be distributed, unmodified, under the Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives License 3.0. All other rights reserved. Please send any enquiries about commercial use or derived works to

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