4th Grade Math Lessons: Exploring Volume

Your child actually begins laying the foundation for learning about volume in 2nd grade by examining, drawing and analyzing some 3-dimensional shapes. However, in 3rd grade, the concept of liquid volumes is introduced using metric measures, such as liters, and 4th graders do more work with liquid volume, also called capacity.

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Lessons in Capacity for 4th Graders

What Is Capacity?

Capacity is the equivalent of liquid volume. Liquid volume is measured in the U.S. in cups, pints, quarts and gallons. In most of the rest of the world, it is measured in milliliters, centiliters, deciliters and liters.

Introducing Liquid Volume

To increase your child's interest, introduce volume in a fun way, such as reading books like these:

  • Pastry School in Paris: An Adventure in Capacity by Cindy Neuschwander
  • Lulu's Lemonade by Barbara deRubertis
  • Me and the Measure of Things by Joan Sweeney
  • Capacity by Henry Pluckrose

Songs and rhythms are other simple ways to introduce capacity. TeachersWorkshop.com has several you could use to teach your son or daughter about cups, pints, quarts and gallons. Although the song Lemonade Stand was written for 3rd graders, most 4th graders will have fun with it, too. You can get it online as a single song or as part of the album, CD Baby.

Another song, The Measurement Song is available on Tim Pacific's album, Musical Recall. Still others may be found online - or you and your child could make one up. It would be harder for him to forget that one.

Witch Equivalents Lesson

You've heard the old adage, 'A picture is worth a thousand words.' Help your child remember the difference between gallons, quarts, pints and cups by using a drawing of a witch.

Draw a vertical quadrilateral with the bottom flaring out for the body, and label it 'Gallon.' Add two arms and two legs and label each 'Quart.' Be sure they look like the sleeves of a witch's dress and her legs! At the end of each arm put a hand with two bony fingers labeled 'Pint.' At the end of each leg add a foot with two bony toes also labeled 'pint.' On each 'pint' add two long fingernails or toenails and mark them 'Cup.' This is a fun way to show your child that one gallon is composed of four quarts, eight pints and sixteen cups.

Orange Juice Lesson

Begin with a gallon of orange juice. Have your child pour it into four quart-size jars that have cups marked on the side. Then let her take one of the quart jars and pour it into two pint jars. Finally, empty one of these into two 1-cup measuring cups.


Your child will need practice using conversions. Give your child worksheets, or you can make up 'recipes' and have him see if the recipe adds up to a gallon. For example, one recipe might read:

1 cup
1 quart
3 cups
1 quart
4 cups

This does add up to a gallon. You could change the '3 cups' to '2 cups' to make a recipe that is less than a gallon.

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