Units are the Game Changers in Maths!

Let us take a look at a grade 3 problem:

Find the perimeter of a rectangle whose length is 2 m and breadth is 10 cm.


Most of the children are unaware of the significance of units, hence, they might simply ignore the units and attempt it this way :

2 + 10 + 2 + 10

I want them to understand the difference between

2 + 10 + 2 + 10     &     2 m + 10 cm + 2 cm + 10 cm

If I say,  you need to have the same units for addition/subtraction, children might simply follow because ‘teacher is saying so’. Conversion of units and its importance is quite an abstract concept for 8 – 9 year old children. They need a concrete example to understand and visualise this concept of same vs. different units.


Digits have no definite value without units. Units are the game changers in Maths.

Consider these digit-unit pairs :

10 Km, 10 gm, 10 Secs, 10 litres

All of them have the digit 10 but are they all the same ? Units are making them all different. Do you agree ?

I want children to ‘see’ this concept that it is the “unit” that decides the exact value of a digit.

Let me share the approach that I use in my classroom to explain this abstract concept :


Me: If I give you $100 & Rs. 100, how much money would you have in total ? ( Rs is Indian currency )

Student : (Thinking … ) $100 & Rs. 100

Me : Very smart answer 🙂 What’s the total amount ?

Student : (Screaming silence)

Me : Can you say that you have $ 200 in total ?

Student : No.

Me : Can you say that you have Rs. 200 in total ?

Student : No.

Me : What do you understand from this example ?

Student : Hmm…., I cannot add $100 & Rs. 100. ( This is the Aha… moment for any student who is struggling with units)

Me: Right. What do you need to do so that you can add them ?

Student : I need to convert Rs. 100 to dollars.  ( Rs. 100 = $2 assuming 1 Dollar = 50 Rs. )

Me : Can we do it the other way also ? Can we convert $100 to Rs. ?

Student : Yes, that’s also possible. $100 = 50 X100 = Rs. 5000. So, total amount is Rs.5100 .

I have tried this method with multiple students and after this conversation, all of them have got a crystal clear understanding about the significance of units. Now, they don’t just mechanically convert units to make them same. Rather, they understand the reasoning behind it.

I would encourage you to discuss this with your children/ students and let me know if it gives them a clearer perspective of units. Your feedback would surely help me in this journey of Making Maths Simple & Visual.

8 thoughts on “Units are the Game Changers in Maths!

Add yours

  1. this is such a good idea! I have tried explaining this in terms of different denominations in the same currency, but they pretty much know how to get to the answer. I’m going to try this…


    1. Glad to know that you found it useful for your students. Please, do share your experience. It might help me in making Maths Simple & Visual. Happy teaching.


  2. You actually make it appear really easy with your presentation however I in finding this matter to be actually one thing that I believe I would by no means understand. It sort of feels too complex and extremely vast for me. I am having a look forward for your subsequent publish, I will attempt to get the hold of it!


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