Teaching the Use of the Metric System (TUMS)

I taught Physics at George Washington High School on Guam. I gave the students the choice of Portrait WW Cookeither using the Imperial System (what we use in the United States) and the Metric System, which is used in the rest of the world. This article will make a short comparison of Metric System vs. Imperial System.

At first, they usually wanted to use our usual measurement system because that is to what they were accustomed. I then gave them a simple set of questions. On the Imperial System (I will just call it the English System from here out), I asked them the units we use for measuring distance. Their usual response was inches, feet, yards, and miles. I then asked, how may inches in a foot, how many feet in a yard, and how many yards in a mile. They knew the answers until they came to the yards in a mile question. A few could tell how many feet are in a mile (probably something much easier for my current students in Colorado), but they struggled on how many yards were in a mile. I then gave them a brief chart:

NameMultiplier
kilo1000
hecto100
deka10
1
deci0.1
centi0.01
milli0.001
Metric Conversion

Then I told them that this applies to distance with meters, liquid volume with liters, and mass with grams. Then I told them that the United States of America officially adopted the Metric System in 1865, but never implemented it because the businesses at the time thought that it would be too expensive to convert.

The US Metric Association has a good article on the Origin of the Metric System. The Britanica has a brief discussion on the Origin of the Imperial System. If you had to do some scientific work, which would you choose?

In addition, the French defined one cubic centimeter of distilled water too have the mass of 1 gram and the liquid volume of 1 milliliter. They always decided that the math would be much easier using the Metric System.

Working in science most of my life, I would love to see the Metric System used commonly in the United States. Besides TUMS, the second phrase I had written down from my Guam days was: Relief Of Learning Ambiguities In the Deplorable (English/Imperial) System (ROLAIDS).

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