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Conversions for Science Courses: Temperature Formulas, Conversion Factors, and the Metric System

Updated on November 11, 2014

Why Do We Convert?

The ability to do conversions is one of the most important skills in your science toolbox. We are not always able to take measurements in the same set of units. Conversions allow us to take measurements and put them in more meaningful or useful terms.

Methods of Converting


  • In some cases, we are able to perform a conversion by using a formula. If you are provided with a formula, just plug in what you know and solve for what you need to find out.
  • Temperature is one of the quantities that we can convert using formulas. Common formulas allow us to convert easily between degrees Fahrenheit and degrees Celsius and between degrees Celsius and Kelvins.

Conversion Factors

  • If we are not given a formula to complete a conversion, we can often find a relevant conversion factor. A conversion factor is a ratio that you can multiply a value by to convert from one unit to another.
  • You can turn an equality into a conversion factor by putting one side over the other in a fraction.

Converting in the SI/Metric System

SI Basics

  • The system of measurement that we use most often in science is International System of Units (SI). (The SI is a more modern version of the metric system, using some different units of measure, but we can talk about them interchangeably most of the time.
  • In the SI, measurements are taken in relation to a base unit for each type of quantity (length, volume, time, etc.)
  • Prefixes tell us what fraction or multiple of the base unit the given the derived unitis.


  • To convert between SI units for the same type of quantity, simply apply the appropriate conversion factor in the same way as above*.

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