Converting within the Metric System using the Metric Staircase
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
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
#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 ÷ 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.