The Metric System – What and Why? (VIDEO)

The French decided to put the Metric System into place because almost every country in Europe had their own system of measuring. It made it difficult to communicate for trade and business purposes, so the International Metric System (SI) was begun…

SI is the system used by all but 3 countries in the world: the United States, Myanmar (Burma), and Liberia.

Besides the fact that literally every country besides those three use the metric system, why should Americans (and Burmese and Liberians) learn the metric system?

  • 70-80% of the world economy uses the metric system. This would benefit anyone going into international business.
  • It is an international language. No matter if you’re traveling, or trying to communicate with foreigners, one meter equals one meter everywhere. You don’t have to spend time converting.
  • No need for complicated fractions. 19 cm is much easier to replicate than 7 12/25 inches.

It’s about being aware of the world outside of your immediate view. We mention that a lot on Honors Grad, because one of the purposes to education is to shape citizens that can contribute to the betterment of the world. This is difficult to accomplish if we only learn what our own country has to offer.

The Basics:

The metric system is broken up into bases and prefixes. Bases are the most basic unit of measurement, and the prefixes help identify if an object is bigger or smaller than the base.


  • Length – the meter
  • Mass – the kilogram
  • Volume – the liter
  • Temperature – degrees Celsius 


  • Milli-, meaning one 1000th
  • Centi-, meaning one 100th
  • Kilo-, meaning times 1000

For example, a millimeter: milli- means that it takes one thousand to equal one, in this case, meter. With that logic, how many centimeters equal one meter? We know centi- means 1/100th, so a centimeter is one out of a hundred centimeters it would take to equal a meter. A kilometer, therefore, is one thousand times the size of a meter. Simple, right?

Make sure you watch the video for our visualizations of size, to help grasp the concepts of the metric system. We thought it best to do visualizations instead of conversions, because learning the Metric System isn’t about being able to convert. It’s being able to use both interchangeably. For example, knowing that a meter is about the length of a guitar or baseball bat, I can estimate that the length of a full size car is probably 5 meters.

Sources: [1] [2] [3]

Featured Image: Antoine Collet

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