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Why America Should Use the Metric System

By Edited Sep 13, 2016 14 30

Children Who Start Out Learning Metrics Have an Easier Time With Math

Students in the United States are frequently criticized because our country lags behind other countries in math scores. Unfortunately, we have set our children up for failure because our country obstinately refuses to learn how to use metric measurements. We are the last country in the world to still insist in using our own system of quarts, gallons, feet, miles, etc. in our daily lives.  All the other countries in the world … even very small, poor countries … have managed to convert their countries from their traditional systems of measurement to metrics. Compared to the system we use, there are very few things that confuse people who use the metric system. Americans are constantly confused by our system.

For example, how many people know the number of feet or yards are in a mile? In the rest of the world, any school child can tell you that there are 1000 meters in a kilometer. The metric system of math was originally adopted in France in 1791, and has been recognized as the international standard of measurement since the 1960's.  Originally, the US planned to join the rest of the world community in using it.  However, when our citizens resisted, we quickly gave it up, which is unfortunate.

Most modern technology is designed using metric measurements.  If we want competitive young adults, they need to be able to use metrics as easily as students in other countries.  What are some additional reasons that we should convert to metrics?

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The Metric System is Easier

The metric system is based on the number 10. Everything is either divided or multiplied by 10, 100, 1000, etc. If we adopted this system of measurements, we would no longer have to deal with remembering confusing numbers such as 12 inches in a foot, 36 inches in a yard, 3 feet in a yard, 4 quarts in a gallon, etc. Instead, our numbers would be similar to the way we count money … 100 pennies in a dollar, 10 dimes in a dollar, etc. For example, there are 100 centimeters in a meter, and 1000 meters in a kilometer. Easy, right?!

If you are still not convinced, or you have questions, you may wish to purchase a book on metric conversions.  If you are interested, you can use this direct link to books on metric conversions from Amazon.com.

Our Students Will Do Better in Math

Once our children no longer have to be taught the confusing numbers that are in feet, yards, etc., they could start right away, in pre-school, learning about metrics. This one step, alone, could propel our children forward in their arithmetic and math skills. I work with high school students who have not mastered remembering such details as the number of quarts and pints in a gallon. We don't introduce them to metrics until middle school … and so they don't master that system, either. Every year I watch students graduate from high school who have not mastered either the metric system or the American system that they have grown up with! It is such a shame that they have not spent those years learning the metrics.

Science, Medicine, Engineering, the Military and Industry are already Metric

Sooner or later, most American students have to learn at least some metrics in order to work in a variety of fields. If you go into the military, learn to repair foreign cars, become a doctor or a nurse, you will have to learn to use metric measurements. The sooner our children learn it, the easier it will be.

Fewer Critical Mistakes will be Made

Because we have a different system of measurement from other countries, there have been several serious mistakes made in recent years. In 1983, a Boeing 767 jet ran out of fuel during a flight because workers made an error in calculating the amount of fuel needed on an Air Canada flight. In 1999, NASA lost a Mars orbiter because one engineering team used metric measurements and another used our traditional American system of measurement. Some medical errors in the United States have also been attributed to the disparity in different types of measurement.  It's time we stop pretending that there is no reason for our students to learn metrics as their every day system of math.

We've Already Started the Process

Every time you buy a two-liter bottle of soda you can see that it does not confuse you. Who tries to convert their two-liter bottle to quarts in order to figure out how many quarts of soda they are buying? Everyone just accepts that they are purchasing two liters of soda. When you purchase medications, the standard unit of measure is often the milligram. Have you ever asked the doctor to convert it to a different standard of measure, such as ounces?

Once Americans come to accept metric measurements, our students will do better in school, our international math scores will increase, and fewer errors would be made in industry and science. It's a win-win situation for everyone.

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Teach Your Children How to Use a Metric Measuring Container

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Sep 17, 2010 2:28am
Very good article, I grew up with the feet yard measurements then had to learn the metric way and yes it was not easy, I still refer back to inches when deciding how long something is. Bad habits are hard to change, but can do both but still like the inches. Good info andhope you get the metric for the kids sake. rated up
Sep 17, 2010 3:03am
As a Canadian who love traveling to the United States...hear hear!

I think this map kind of sums up the situation:
Sep 17, 2010 8:59am
very nice article thanks
Sep 18, 2010 12:06pm
You have made very good points for converting to the metric system. We need to do something to help our young grasp math.
Sep 19, 2010 5:34pm
Good article. Learning never hurt anyone. Metric measures or a new language, all can be of use.
Sep 19, 2010 10:19pm
We use the metric system in Singapore. Agree that it is easier to remember.
Sep 19, 2010 10:50pm
Thank you to the commenters from Canada, Singapore and other countries. I hope that some of our citizens see you comments and realize how much easier life would be if the United States would go metric, too!
Sep 20, 2010 8:05pm
You have to convince the parents that it is a good idea! I still have nightmares from 1970's math trying to teach us metrics after first teaching us inches, feet and yards.
Oct 7, 2010 10:13am
Living and teaching in England for 28 years, through the imperial/metric swithover, I have to disagree that metric system means more arithmetically capable children.
Kids here can visualise centimetres, yes, but my daughters, in their 20s had to learn imoerial system when they left uni to enter the real world.
I think people are in danger of confusing MathS and arithmetic. Maths invoves a lot more, thats whu its called mathematicS. Kids don't chant their times tables anymore, so they never learn them, it's more to do with "better", modern teaching methods than anything else. That said the US system is different from EVERYONE else's. The US quart is closer to a litre than it is to an imperial quart. A US gallon (I think) is 4 US quarts, 4 litres, An imperial gallon is 4.537 litres. Even a US inch is bigger would you believe, like Texas? 2.55cm in 1 US inch, 2.54cm in an imperial inch. I'm ranting, will stop now
Oct 7, 2010 11:32am
Great article Deborah-Diane! I am not very familiar with metric at all but it's probably because all it did was confuse and irritate me trying to learn it in school after already learning the US Standard measurements. I just remember thinking, "either teach us one way, or the other, not both...that's just confusing". The thing is when you teach kids the US way then they don't feel it's necessary to learn metric. After all, why would we need to learn metric? We don't live in England or New Zealand, right? ;-) Unfortunately that's how kids minds work.
Oct 7, 2010 5:39pm
It's funny when my parents, who grew up with imperial measurements would try to tell me things in quarts, ounces, and the like. I never had any idea of what these measurements were.
Oct 7, 2010 7:14pm
My biggest problem, as a Canadian was growing up with feet and inches and then suddenly changing to metric. My kids don't know any different but my era got thrown in the deep end literally overnight.
Oct 7, 2010 10:49pm
Thanks for your comments. I believe that the metric system should become our primary system of measurement, and feet, quarts, etc., should become that "old-fashioned" system that we only worry about when we're using old cookbooks, and things like that. After a while, the current American system would be a matter of history! There would be a period of adjustment, but we would all be better off in the long run!
Oct 11, 2010 5:21am
Wow. All of you created a great conversation to read. I don't have much to share.
Nov 1, 2010 5:08am
I am European, so of course it is difficult for me to understand that the USA (and other countries) still use feet, miles, and pounds. I find the metric system being much more logical.
Nov 1, 2010 9:08am
Thank you. I completely agree that teaching our kids this old fashioned system is a waste of our time ... and theirs. And, I say this as someone in the American educational system. As always, I appreciate your thoughtful comments askformore!
Nov 14, 2010 12:08am
Excellent feature article good job!
Nov 14, 2010 9:08am
Yeah for your featured article Deborah! We do use metrics in Nursing and I've seen many recipes use it too so it could be great for us if we all used the same system. It's more difficult to learn both and that part does confuse many people as well as not using metrics continually. Teaching children early would help and then they'd need to teach their parents:)lol
Nov 14, 2010 12:03pm
Fantastic article Deborah! I just got a promotion about a month ago, and part of my new job is to work with weights and measures using the metric system since our company is global (I'm in the US), and it's taking me a while to get used to the system. I wish I was taught sooner instead of taking my own time to learn, so I completely agree with your article. Well done!
Nov 14, 2010 6:51pm
I really liked this article! It's great, and has a very good point. I live in Canada and I like the metric system much more than whatever the States uses. I just got back from florida, and all the measurements were very confusing.
Nov 15, 2010 11:05am
Great article, and I agree! I have done a fair share of traveling, and last spring I spent 6 weeks in NZ. I was there to help with a new grandbaby, so I cooked daily for the adults. All I can say is that I am glad I was brought up cooking by "oh, just throw in a pinch, or, taste it" because evryday my Kiwi son in law would refer to metric system, and I had a hard time grasping it - I messed up more recipes than ever! Yes, to learning metrics in the US education system.
Nov 16, 2010 6:11am
excellent article, congrats on being featured!
Nov 16, 2010 10:49am
Well written, and informative, article. Thank you for sharing.
Nov 16, 2010 11:06pm
I live in Canada and I really don't understand why the US does not use the metric system... I remember my teachers in elementary school telling us something like "You guys are going to have to use this system all your life and all around the world... Except in the US where they feel they should use an outdated system to be unique"

I find feets/yards etc pretty confusing but oh well.. in time I suppose...
Dec 22, 2010 2:41pm
Can't believe I missed another one! Congratulations on the front page. Great arguments for the metric system. Going to share this one with with a tweet and a stumble!
Dec 22, 2010 9:42pm
Thank you so much! I appreciate your willingness to take the time to Tweet and Stumble this article. After working with high school students for several years, this is an issue I feel strongly about, and believe it is long overdue. Our resistance just makes us look foolish to the rest of the world, and hinders our children.
Dec 30, 2010 12:45pm
Have retweeted to knitting followers...the metric system is so much easier to use when doing crafts, more exact and almost universal, as you point out so well, thank you.
Dec 30, 2010 1:02pm
Thank you so much! I wish we would convert to the metric system. The old-fashioned one we use is so confusing for kids. Maybe more and more people will begin to push for this, and we can gently become a force for change ... knitting our way to a better system of mathematics! By the way, I love the knitting patterns you post. Adorable!
Aug 11, 2011 1:03pm
Thank you! After reading your article, I added a skill to my resume: metric system knowledge. Knowing two systems is like knowing two languages- very beneficial. To start, learning metric system should become a trial in a few private and public schools to build up a strategy (subject for Honor classes), which later would become a method. When it becomes a method, it should be used in colleges as well during the transition time. Also it could become a great subject for adult education classes right now. If you know metric system and good with math, think about offering such class in your area.
Nov 3, 2014 7:27pm
Nearly everyone needs to understand the metric system if they want to succeed in a wide variety of careers ... medicine, science, auto repair, technology, etc. The sooner America converts, the better off our children will be.
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