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Converting within the Metric System using the Metric Staircase

Updated on April 8, 2012
Metric Staircase
Metric Staircase | Source

Welcome to the Wolrd of Metric

Converting from one unit to another in the metric system is easy as a staircase. Once you know and can visualize the steps everything else will fall into place.

The staircase represent how the different units within the metric system are related. The main units - meter, liter, & gram are the middle step. All of the units above and below the base units are the prefixes that attach to the main unit to differentiate between the units.

For example, 1 meter is equal to 1000 millimeters. 1 gram is equal to 0.001 kilograms.

In order to convert from one metric unit to the other you follow the staircase. When moving down the staircase you multiply by 10 for each step you go down. When going up the staircase you divide by 10 for each step you go up.

Converting Metric System

Converting Metric System
Converting Metric System | Source
Converting Metric System
Converting Metric System | Source

A few examples

#1 Convert 4.5 m to cm

We are going from meters to centimeters. That will bring us down two steps. 10X10 =100

So we will multiply 4.5 by 100.

4.5 x 100 = 450 cm

450 cm

#2 Convert 0.4 kg to g

we are converting kilogram to grams. That will bring us down three steps. 10 x 10 x 10 = 1000

0.4 x 1000 = 400g


#3 Convert 65000mL to L

We are converting milliliters to Liters. That will bring us up three steps. divide by 1000

65000 รท 1000 = 65 L


The Metric System

While our students in the US struggle with understanding the Metric system it is extremely important in this ever changing world that we recognize that Metric is the international form of measurement and we are behind the times.

The base 10 system of the metric conversion is much simpler to use then the US customary system and should be taught thoroughly in schools. The mathematical understand that a young student can learn from this base 10 system is essential for higher elements in mathematical thinking and understanding.


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    • kthix10 profile image

      kthix10 4 years ago from IL

      Mega would be up an additional 3 steps above kilo and micro would be down an additional 3 steps below milli. Although most basic classes don't use those so they were not included in the article.

    • profile image

      Dae 4 years ago

      i really lik the stairs instead of remembering these up and down lik my teacher wants but wat bout mega and micro?

    • kthix10 profile image

      kthix10 5 years ago from IL

      Actually I would prefer if you don't copy my article completely. While you did reference it you also copy and pasted my exact words into your own blog and did not properly link or credit my images.

    • profile image

      ashley 5 years ago

      posting this on my education blog with a direct link back to you! thank you for the information- i couldn't have said it better myself!

    • kthix10 profile image

      kthix10 5 years ago from IL

      Thanks - I am really excited about the new visuals program I was able to add to my home computer, it makes writing math hubs so much easier

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      This is a very clear explanation and easy to follow. Voted up.

    • kthix10 profile image

      kthix10 5 years ago from IL

      It is wonderful when teachers give great lessons that we can hold onto years afterward. I have a friend that is a rapping French teacher and I think her students will forever remember some of her lessons

    • yougotme profile image

      Renz Kristofer Cheng 5 years ago from Manila

      In High School, we learned that through a song. And I could say it was effective. I still remember the song right now, and it facilitates my conversion. :)