The ComPADRE Collections

Introduction to Measurement (advanced high school/intro college level)

Peter Bohacek, Henry Sibley High School
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This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project
Initial Publication Date: November 4, 2009


30-page illustrated guide to fundamentals of measurement. This is intended to be a clear, comprehensive overview of effective measurement technique. Intended for advanced high school or introductory college level students. Includes worked examples and problems.

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Learning Goals

After reading this packet, and doing the problems, students should be able to:

  • Distinguish between error and uncertainty
  • Recognize that all measurements have uncertainty
  • Identify types of error and sources of error and how to detect/minimize error
  • Estimate, describe, and express uncertainty in measurements and calculations
  • Using uncertainty to describe the results of their own lab work
  • Compare measured values and determine whether values are the same within stated uncertainty

Context for Use

This packet is intended to be used as a short text to introduce students to measurement and uncertainty. Students should learn this material at the beginning of the course as an introduction to lab activities. The material can be presented in lecture format, or assigned as reading. Either way, students should complete with activities designed to help students practice these skills, such as the ruler drop activity. For additional information about this approach see How to Integrate Measurement and Uncertainty

Description and Teaching Materials

PDF version Introduction to measurement (advanced high school/intro college) (Acrobat (PDF) 1MB Nov4 09)

Microsoft Word version Introduction to Measurement (advanced high school/intro college) (Microsoft Word 12.5MB Nov4 09)

Solutions Measurement and Uncertainty Packet solutions (Acrobat (PDF) 639kB Mar6 16)

Teaching Notes and Tips

These packets are intended to be used in step 1 of integrating effective measurement technique into science instruction.
Read about the complete process for how to integrate measurement and uncertainty.


The packet contains questions that can be used for assessment, as well as sample test questions.

References and Resources

Introduction to Measurement in the Physics Laboratory. A Probabilistic Approach, Ed. 3.4 A. Buffler, S. Allie, F. Lubben, and B. Campbell, (Department of Physics, University of Cape Town, 2007). A 140-page document intended to teach effective measurement technique to college science majors.

NIST Reference on Constants, Units and Uncertainty