Reading a measuring tape requires a basic understanding of fractions, as the tape is marked into feet, inches, half-inches, quarter-inches, eighth-inches and sixteenth-inches. When reading the tape, think in terms of large to small, starting with inches and progressing down to the smallest measurement needed.
The longest lines on the tape designate whole inches. Each line is marked with a number showing its distance from the end of the tape. For example, if a table is measured lengthwise from left to right, and the end of the table is even with the solid line marked "24," it means the table is 24 inches long.
The next longest lines on the measuring tape designate half inches, and are located halfway between the inch marks. Halfway between the half-inch marks are slightly shorter quarter-inch lines. The next shortest lines indicate eighths of an inch, and the shortest lines mark sixteenths of an inch.
To take a measurement, place the end of the tape at one point and extend it until it reaches the distance you want to measure. If there is a line marked with a zero, use that as the starting point. To determine the total distance, first note the largest number of whole inches. Next, note the type of mark that is even with the end of what is being measured. Count the number of those marks starting from the number of whole inches. For example, if the line is the third eighth-inch mark from the number "24", the total length will equal 24 and 3/8 inches.