In these lessons, we will look into two methods that can be used for metric conversion problems. The first method uses the metric table and can also be regarded as a shortcut method. The second method uses the unit fraction method.
Related Topics:
Introduction to the Metric System,
Metric Worksheets,
Measurement Games
Method 1
The metric system uses prefixes to denote multiple of 10.
The following table shows some common prefixes.
Prefix 
kilo 
hecto 
deka 
unit 
deci 
centi 
milli 
Symbol 
k 
h 
da 

d 
c 
m 

1,000 
100 
10 
1
meter
liter
gram

0.1 
0.01 
0.001 
Each prefix differs by a multiple of 10 from the next prefix. When converting between the different units of measure, we look at the number of “jumps” between the prefixes of the two units and then multiply or divide by the powers of 10 accordingly (moving to the right would mean to multiply and moving to the left would mean to divide).
Example :
Convert 3 km to m
Solution:
There are 3 “jumps” to the right from kilometer to meter.
So, we multiply by 10 ^{3} = 1000
3 km = 3 × 1,000 = 3,000 m
Example:
Convert 20 mm to cm
Solution:
There is 1 “jump” to the left from millimeter to centimeter
So, we divide by 10.
20 mm = 20 ÷ 10 = 2 cm
The following video shows more examples of metric conversion using the table method or shortcut method.
This is a presentation on how to convert metric units of weight without using a calculator. The presentation focuses on conversion between kg, g, mg and mg.
This tutorial explains answers to exercises in converting metric units of weight. The exercises involve multiplying and dividing without a calculator.
This video explains how to convert to different metric units of measure for length, capacity, and mass.
A similar method is to use the metric staircase. It is also called the ladder method.
Use the metric staircase to convert units within the metric system.
Using the metric staircase to convert between metric measurements.
Method 2
In this method, we multiply by a unit fraction in order to perform the metric conversion.
Example :
Convert 3 km to m
Solution:
Example:
Convert 20 mm to cm
Solution:
The following video shows more examples of metric conversion using the unit fraction method.
Metric unit conversion.
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