Grade Five Explores the Metric System

From Class Teacher Cathie Ely: The fifth grade just concluded an introductory block exploring the metric system. From our work in third grade, students are comfortable measuring volume, mass and distance using the U.S. Standard system for measurement. After a review of this work, we sprung forward to the metric system.

For this new way to measure, students rolled up their sleeves and put scientific equipment to good use. Using graduated cylinders, centrifuge tubes, syringes and pipets, students measured water in milliliters and liters. At home, students designed and built cardboard houses. Using centimeters and millimeters, they followed strict building codes that determined the height and width of their houses and the sizes of window and door openings.

Finally, to bring all three units together, students created beautiful decimeter cubes out of stiff cardstock. Once lined with a plastic produce bag, we were amazed to discover that the decimeter cube could hold one liter of water and weighed one kilogram.

Students were left feeling that the metric system is a much easier system to utilize, especially with their new understanding of decimals. Questions were raised, "Why donʼt we switch?" Their thoughts and answers were very interesting. The first person to say "NO" to the metric system was Thomas Jefferson because he thought it was "too French." Do you know the three countries in the world that have NOT completely switched to the metric system?

[Answers: Myanmar - aka Burma (S.E. Asia), Liberia (W. Africa) and the United States.]