How to Teach Metric Conversions to Middle School Students

by on July 3rd, 2011
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By the time students reach the seventh grade, they should have a solid understanding of the metric system. They should know how to make measurements using the appropriate metric units and how to convert between those units. Unfortunately, many middle school children have a hard time understanding the metric system. By using the methods described in these steps, you can ensure your middle school students have no problem understanding the metric system and metric conversions.

Step 1.

The first thing you need to do is explain the metric system to your students. I know this sounds obvious, but sometimes teachers jump straight into metrics without giving students enough time to understand the difference between the standard system and the metric system. They need to know why it’s important for them to know both systems. Give them examples of when it’s appropriate to use the standard system and when it’s appropriate to use the metric system.

Step 2.

Make a metric conversions chart in your classroom. A metric conversions chart should be on display in your classroom the whole time you are teaching this subject to your students. This will give your students something they can always reference and it will let them see just how easy metric conversions are. Make sure you create charts for length, mass, area and volume.

Step 3.

Make an approximate comparisons chart and/or ditto sheet. Approximate comparisons allow students to relate everyday objects with the metric system. For example, 1 meter is half the length of a door, and the average raisin is 1 centimeter long. This will help your students learn when to use certain units for measuring a particular object.

Step 4.

Show your students how to use a metric ruler and have them make their own measurements. You can even have them make their own metric rulers as a class project or homework assignments.

Step 5.

Begin teaching them how to convert between metric units. Metric conversions are quite simple because all they require is multiplying or dividing by powers of 10. Once your students know how to measure objects using metric units, it should be easy for them to understand that 10 millimeters equals 1 centimeter, and 1 kilometer equals 1,000 meters, and so on…

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