How to Quickly Convert Standard Units and Metric

Nearly all countries in the world use the International System of Units (SI) first proposed in 1791 to the French parliament, but not officially adopted by France until 1799, and later the rest of the world. However, there are still three countries in the world who have not adopted the system, which includes Liberia, Myanmar, and the United States. Because of this, there are undoubted challenges that these countries face in communicating scientifically with the rest of the world as we grow ever-so connected that it’s become essential to know both systems. The International System of Units is still used in the U.S., for example, in science, and the military. 

But for you reading this article, chances are you’re more than likely looking for a quick, easy way to convert between standard and metric units as you learn them in school to help with your homework and assignments. Lucky for you, others have developed some pretty effective ways of learning the metric system and methods for quickly and easily converting between them. 

Use an Online Conversion Calculator

One Google search can lead you to a handy online conversion calculator that you can pull up whenever you need to calculate the corresponding SI unit. There are plenty of different calculators you can find and use online, but this one is perhaps the easiest to use that I’ve come across. To operate the calculator, you just select the standard unit in the left column and type in the amount that you want to convert into a metric unit, which you can choose from in the right column, and it will instantly tell you what it is.

Create a Metric Unit Chart

Another way that can help you memorize the metric unit placements and how they correspond to standard units on your own, without the help of a calculator, is to write them out on a chart, or line, from largest to smallest. So, you would write meter at the left-hand side, and end with millimeter. Use a ruler to separate the spaces in between each unit accurately, which you’ll find to be is 10 millimeters, or one centimeter, long. Having this chart will help you move decimal places with ease whenever you need to convert a unit, and soon enough, you’ll have the chart practically engraved in your brain that you’ll just automatically know how many places to move for a given metric unit. 

Use a Mnemonic Device to Memorize Unit Places

Mnemonic devices have long been used to remember many things – the metric system prefixes included. Learning a mnemonic device that can help you remember the metric prefixes works in a similar way to writing out a chart or line in that it’s always in order, and, you’ll know how many places to move your decimal. One popular mnemonic device that has been taught in schools for as long as anyone can remember, but that you may have forgotten, is “King Henry Died Drinking Chocolate Milk.” Each beginning letter of every word stands for a prefix in order from largest to smallest from left to right. The “K” in the sentence stands for kilo, the “H” stands for hecto, the “D’ is deca, the second “D” stands for deci, the “C” is centi, and finally, the “M” stands for meter. 

Learning the metric system this way is a fun trick that you’re more likely to remember, and you can even create your own variations of the mnemonic to to retain the order better, just be sure to remember that in between the two “Ds,” there is a base unit to consider. This base unit should be where you place the unit you’re trying to convert from and move you decimal either left or right, accordingly.

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