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Converting within the Metric System using the Metric Staircase

Metric Staircase

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

Converting Metric System

Converting Metric System

Converting Metric System

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

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.


kthix10 (author) from IL on December 01, 2020:

Jackson I think you are confused.

1 meter = 0.001 kilometers

1 meter is not equal to 1000 kilometers

This is a conversion chart - all the measures are equal from step to step.

Yes milli is smaller but there are 1000 millimeters in 1 meter.

Jackson on March 02, 2019:

Sorry I'm commenting after you posted this 6 years ago, but this is wrong

kilo = 1000

hecto = 100

deka = 10

deci = 0.1

centi = 0.01

milli = 0.001

larger units typically start on the left and gradually move to the smaller units on the right

(but in this case since i typed it downwards the larger units descend to the smaller units)

kthix10 (author) from IL on September 16, 2012:

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.

Dae on September 16, 2012:

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

kthix10 (author) from IL on June 01, 2012:

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.

ashley on May 31, 2012:

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 (author) from IL on April 09, 2012:

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

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on April 09, 2012:

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

kthix10 (author) from IL on April 08, 2012:

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

Renz Kristofer Cheng from Manila on April 08, 2012:

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. :)

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