The Metric System of Measurement Topic Index | Algebra Index | Regents Exam Prep Center

 The Metric system of measurement was created about two hundred years ago by a group of French scientists to simplify measurement.

In the metric system, each of the common kinds of measure -- length, weight, capacity -- has one basic unit of measure.  To measure smaller amounts, divide the basic unit into parts of ten, a hundred, or a thousand, and so on.  To measure larger amounts, multiply the basic unit by ten, a hundred, or a thousand, and so on.

 Length: 1 kilometer (km) = 1000 meters (m) 1 centimeter (cm) = .01 meter (m) 1 millimeter (mm) = .001 meter (m) Capacity: 1 milliliter = .001 liter (l) Weight: 1 kilogram (kg) = 1000 grams (g) 1 milligram (mg) = .001 gram (g) Kilo  means thousand (1000) Hecto means hundred (100) Deca means ten (10) Deci means one-tenth (1/10) Centi means one-hundredth (1/100) Milli means one-thousandth (1/1000)

Conversions

Sometimes you need to convert from one unit of measure
to another similar unit.

 Proportions will help you make conversions when working with measurements. Create a unit conversion ratio, which is always equal to 1:

Example 1:  Convert 1.254 kilometers to meters.

Using a conversion ratio:

Solving algebraically, the answer is 1254.0 m

 Another way to look at the problem:  When making metric conversions, arrange the prefixes from largest to smallest: kilo  hecto  deca     UNIT     deci  centi  milli    (meter, gram or liter)

To convert 1.254 kilometers to meters, notice that in the chart above, the name meter is three places to the right of the name kilo.  This implies that the decimal point in our number needs to be moved three places to the right.  The answer is 1254.0 meters.

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