# The Metric System Simplified

# The metric system can measure anything in the Universe.

In fact, the first civilizations to record measurements were Egypt and Mesopotamia. In Egypt rods or bars of an exact length were kept in temples for basic measurement. The basic unit of length was the

**cubit**, which was about the span from your middle finger to your elbow.

However, there was a problem. Different countries or towns had their own unique measurements. For example, in Britain, you could measure mass using a slug, yes a slug, which was equal to about 32 pounds in the United States. All of these different methods of measuring became very confusing and frustrating.

As a result, The** International System of Units** abbreviated SI was established in 1960 by the General Conference on Weights and Measures in order to create an international system of measurements.

It is commonly referred to today as the metric system. Actually, the metric system has been around for much longer but for the most part the term “metric system” refers to a **SI unit**.

First, the metric system is a decimal system. "Decimal-based" means all the units are based on powers of 10. Next, there are base units depending on what you are measuring and then this is combined with a system of prefixes.

Let’s begin with the fact that the metric system is decimal-based. For example, 30,000 centimeters equals 3,000 meters which equals 3 kilometers. So you are moving the decimal to the left or right depending on if the object you are measuring is large or small. Why is this important? This makes conversion within the system easy.

Next, we are going to focus on** base units** and then **prefixes.**

Up first, the** 7 base units.** I call them the big 7 because the SI system is built around these units.

See the chart below

The next units are called the** derived units.** They use the base units in a formula. For example, the unit for area is a derived unit. In order to calculate the area you multiple length times width.

Therefore the unit is square meter It uses a base unit in a formula.

Here is a partial list of **derived units.**

**There are 22 derived units**

Finally, there are **accepted units.**

For example, in almost any high school science lab you will measure volume using liters. A liter is an accepted unit that can be used with the SI units. In other words, it is accepted in most papers or journals but is not a base unit of the SI.

Here is a list of some **accepted units.**

Next, you combine the units with prefixes.

Many of you have heard.

**King Henry Died by Drinking Chocolate Milk**

This is a mnemonic device used by people to remember several key prefixes of the metric system. ( See below)

**Kilo Hecto Deka Base deci centi milli**

These are examples of prefixes.

For example, if I’m measuring distance, the kilometer can be used for larger measurements like the distance across the state of Georgia or a millimeter can be used for small measurements because it is about the height of a credit card.

However, there are even bigger and smaller prefixes.

**Here is a list of some but not all prefixes.**

Most of them are rarely used but the beauty is that you can take anything in the universe and there will be a prefix to measure it.

So in summary,

1. A base unit is a unit that you use based on what you are measuring,

2. Combine this with a prefix depending on the size.

3. Then everything is based on powers of 10.

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