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NSW Syllabuses

Mathematics K–10 - Early Stage 1 - Measurement and Geometry Length


A student:

  • MAe-1WM

    describes mathematical situations using everyday language, actions, materials and informal recordings

  • MAe-3WM

    uses concrete materials and/or pictorial representations to support conclusions

  • MAe-9MG

    describes and compares lengths and distances using everyday language


  • Students:
  • Use direct and indirect comparisons to decide which is longer, and explain their reasoning using everyday language (ACMMG006)
  • identify the attribute of 'length' as the measure of an object from end to end
  • make and sort long and short constructions from concrete materials
  • use everyday language to describe length, eg long, short, high, tall, low L
  • use everyday language to describe distance, eg near, far, nearer, further, closer L
  • use comparative language to describe length, eg longer, higher, taller than, shortest, lower than, longest, the same as L
  • identify an object that is longer or shorter than another, eg 'Find an object longer than this pencil' (Communicating)
  • compare lengths directly by placing objects side-by-side and aligning the ends
  • explain why the length of a piece of string remains unchanged whether placed in a straight line or a curve (Communicating, Reasoning) CCT
  • predict whether an object will be longer or shorter than another object and explain the reasons for this prediction (Communicating, Reasoning)
  • compare lengths indirectly by copying a length, eg using the same strip of paper to compare lengths
  • record length comparisons informally by drawing, tracing, or cutting and pasting, and by using words and numerals

Background Information

In Early Stage 1, students develop an awareness of the attribute of length and some of the language used to describe length.

Students develop an awareness of the attribute of length as comparisons of lengths are made.

Early Stage 1 focuses on one-to-one comparisons and the importance of accurately aligning one end of each of the objects to be compared.

When students are asked to compare the lengths of two objects of equal length and can consistently say that the objects are equal in length though their relative positions have been altered, they are conserving length.
2 pairs of identical rectangles. 1st pair are aligned; 2nd pair are off-centre. 

This is an important concept and develops over time.

Once students can compare two lengths, they should then be given the opportunity to order three or more lengths. This process requires students to understand that if A is longer than B, and B is longer than C, then A is longer than C.

Length and distance are distinct concepts. The term 'length' is generally used to describe a measure from end to end of a drawn interval, a two-dimensional shape or a three-dimensional object. The term 'distance' is generally used to describe the lineal space between two things, places or points. Activities should focus on both concepts.


Students should be able to communicate using the following language: length, end, end-to-end, side-by-side, long, longer than, longest, short, shorter than, shortest, high, higher than, highest, tall, taller than, tallest, low, lower than, lowest, the same as, near, nearer, far, further, close, closer.

Students may need practice with the language of length in a variety of contexts. They may know the word 'fat', but not the word 'thick'. Students may be using the general terms 'big' and 'long' for attributes such as height, width, depth, length and thickness.

Young students often confuse concepts such as big, tall, long and high. It is important to engage students in activities that help them differentiate between these concepts.

National Numeracy Learning Progression links to this Mathematics outcome

When working towards the outcome MAe‑9MG the sub-elements (and levels) of Understanding units of measurement (UuM1-UuM2) describe observable behaviours that can aid teachers in making evidence-based decisions about student development and future learning.

The progression sub-elements and indicators can be viewed by accessing the National Numeracy Learning Progression.