Measure it!

What sorts of technology would you use to talk about measurement? The more I reflect on this question, the stranger it seems. As a math teacher, measurement seems so fundamental that I would not consider using a digital technology to talk about it. I would use those things we have been using for a long time now: rulers, meter-sticks, measuring tape, scales etc. In fact, measurement is so fundamental to math that it is the first thing we see when we look into the history of math.

As we can learn from the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1999), ancient Egyptians first began to use math to keep accounts. They were measuring harvests and taxes. Writing was developed as a technology to keep track of these sorts of things. They also developed technologies for measuring length, such as the cubit rod. The measurement of time spawned the technology of sun dials and calendars. Measurement of size and distance spawned the development of the standard measurement system. Scales and weights were developed to measure the mass of objects. Astronomy sprang up as a way to measure the movement of the heavens. Humanity’s desire to measure things has produced a plethora of technologies strictly for that purpose.

Egyptian cubit rod in Louvre Museum

We are still developing technology to talk about measurement. Not only do our cars have speedometers to measure speed and odometers to measure distance traveled, but they increasingly also measure miles per gallon. Smartphones measure not only data used, or messages received, but they can also double as pedometers, measuring steps. We have apps that can measure our calorie intake, or the money we spend, or the amount of time we spend sitting down. Social media sites measure views and likes and comments. Humans are crazy about their measurements. Perhaps a better question to ask would be, when do we not use technology to talk about measurement?

Google Meet Poll

Education is full of technology for measuring things. Student information systems measure absences, behavior referrals, transcripts and demographic data. Gradebooks measure progress in learning (or at least they are supposed to). Applications like Class Dojo or desmos can help teachers keep track of participation as they go through lessons. Edpuzzle measures how much of a video students watch. Pear Deck, Nearpod, and Google Meet have integrated polls, so teachers can get real-time feedback on whatever question they ask, complete with graph. Technologies available for measurement are everywhere.

Teachers are inundated with technologies that are supposed to help them measure all kinds of different things. Educational technology companies tout how well their software will help measure student progress. Are all these latest gizmos and doodads really necessary? Will these measurements actually help in the classroom? Teachers are responsible for considering which measurements are important to them. What do they need to measure to be better teachers? To make sure their students are learning? There is no technology that can measure learning. No test can accurately capture it, no ruler can properly measure it. For all the measurements we can use technology to explore, the thing which is most important to teachers cannot be measured on any scale.


The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica (Ed.). (1999, July 26). Mathematics. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 13, 2022, from

One thought on “Measure it!

  1. Pingback: Data Tech for Days | Adventures in Edutech

Comments are closed.