What is the metric system?


In these lessons, we'll compare metric and imperial.


First, what is the metric system?


It's a system of measurement based on a number of fundamental or derived units.


These include kilograms, meters, square and cubic meters, liters and kilometers per hour.


What is the metric system used for?


The metric system's used to measure, for example, mass, distance, area, volume/capacity and speed.


Converting between metric system units



Mass

Conversion

factor

Example

Metric tons to kilograms

(metric tons to kg)

x 1000

1 metric ton

= 1 x 1000

= 1000kg

Kilograms to metric tons

(kg to metric tons)

÷ 1000

1000kg

= 1000 ÷ 1000

= 1 metric ton

Kilograms to grams

(kg to g)

x 1000

1kg = 1 x 1000 = 1000g

Grams to kilograms

(g to kg)

÷ 1000

1000g = 1000 ÷ 1000 = 1kg

(kilo denotes one thousand)



Distance (length/height/width)

Conversion

factor

Example

Kilometers to meters

(km to m)

x 1000

1km = 1 x 1000 = 1000m

Meters to kilometers

(m to km)

÷ 1000

1000m = 1000 ÷ 1000 = 1km

Meters to centimeters

(m to cm)

 x 100

 1m = 1 x 100 = 100cm

Centimeters to meters

(cm to m)

÷ 100

100cm = 100 ÷ 100 = 1m

Centimeters to millimeters

(cm to mm)

x 10

100cm = 100 x 10 = 1000mm

Millimeters to centimeters

(mm to cm)

÷ 10

1000mm = 1000 ÷ 10 = 100cm

(centi and milli denote one hundredth and one thousandth)



Area

Conversion

factor

Example

Hectares

to square meters

(ha to m²)

x 10000

1ha = 1 x 10000 = 10000m²

Square meters

to hectares

(m² to ha)

÷ 10000

10000m²

= 10000 ÷ 10000

= 1ha

Square meters

to square centimeters

(m² to cm²)

x 10000

1m² = 1 x 10000 = 10000cm²

Square centimeters

to square meters

(cm² to m²)

÷ 10000

10000cm²

= 10000 ÷ 10000

= 1m²

(note 1m² = 1m x 1m = 100cm x 100cm = 10000cm²)



Volume / capacity


Capacity is the amount of space available to hold something. Volume is the amount of space actually taken up by that something. For example, milk of volume one liter takes up half the capacity of a two liter jug.


Conversion

factor

Example

Cubic meters

to cubic centimeters

(m³ to cm³)

x 1000000

1m³

= 1 x 1000000

= 1000000cm³

Cubic centimeters

to cubic meters

(cm³ to m³)

÷ 1000000

1000000cm³

= 1000000 ÷ 1000000

= 1m³

Cubic centimeters

to milliliters

(cm³ to ml)

=

1cm³ = 1ml

Milliliters

to cubic centimeters

(ml to cm³)

=

1ml = 1cm³

Liters to milliliters

(l to ml)

x 1000

1l = 1 x 1000 = 1000ml

Milliliters to liters

(ml to l)

÷ 1000

1000ml = 1000 ÷ 1000 = 1l

Cubic meters to liters

(m³ to l)

x 1000

1m³ = 1 x 1000 = 1000l

Liters to cubic meters

(l to m³)

÷ 1000

1000l = 1000 ÷ 1000 = 1m³

(note 1m³ = 1m x 1m x 1m = 100cm x 100cm x 100cm = 1000000cm³
= 1000000ml = 1000l)



Speed

Conversion

factor

Example

Kilometers per hour

to meters per second

(km/hr to m/s)

÷ 3.6

3.6km/hr = 3.6 ÷ 3.6 = 1m/s

Meters per second

to kilometers per hour

(m/s to km/hr)

x 3.6

1m/s = 1 x 3.6 = 3.6km/hr



Feeling happy about metric system units?


Okay, now you've considered what is the metric system and metric system units, let's move onto imperial units of measure.


For more on metric vs imperial click:

Imperial units

Metric to imperial conversion

Imperial to metric


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