High School SMILE Meeting 1997-98 -- 05-06 Academic Years The Metric System

15 September 1998: Ann Brandon [Joliet West HS]
She brought in labels from a soda bottle sold in Australia. They indicated not calories, or even kilo-calories, but kilo-Joules. It was commented by the audience that Calories are a nice even standard 1-11 versus "some-thing that is not an even integer"

01 May 2001 Lee Slick (Morgan Park HS) Handout:  English Units (only for non-metric die-hards!)
gave the following information about English units in excruciating detail:

Distance
 1 league = 3 miles 1 nautical mile = 1.154 miles 1 Roman mile = 0.949 miles 1 mile = 8 furlongs 1 furlong = 10 chains 1 chain = 4 rods 1 mile = 5280 feet 1 foot = 12 inches 1 cubit = 18 inches

Volume
 2 mouthfuls = 1 jigger 2 jills = 1 cup 2 quarts = 1 pottle 2 pails = 1 peck 2 jiggers = 1 jack 2 cups = 1 pint 2 pottles = 1 gallon 2 pecks = 1 bushel 2 jacks = 1 jill 2 pints = 1 quart 2 gallons = 1 pail ... etc ...

20 September 2005: Ann Brandon (Joliet Central HS physics, retired)            Testing the Royal Inch
Ann
recently visited American Science and Surplus, and called our attention to their 20% off Teachers' Appreciation Day sale, Saturday, September 24. She earlier had bought a Vernier caliper with an electronic digital display there. She had each of us use it to measure the distance from the first to the second knuckle in our left index fingers to see how close our class was to this classical definition of an inch. We obtained the following set of 24 measurements, in millimeters, arranged in decreasing magnitude:

 33.6 33 32.6 31.9 31.9 31.7 31.1 30.4 30.4 30.2 30.1 30.1 29.9 29.9 29.8 29.6 29.4 29.4 29.3 29.2 28.7 28.5 28 26.9
The average is 30.3 mm, with a range of 26.9 mm - 33.6 mm. When the largest and smallest four values were removed from the data, the range is  from 29.2 mm to 31.9 mm. Using half of this range to estimate the standard deviation, we get 1.4 mm; in other words 30.3 ± 1.4 mm. One inch is 25.4 mm, so we seem to be about 20% larger than the medieval measure.  For details see the web page Anglo-Saxon Weights and Measureshttp://www.historicalarts.co.uk/viking/measures.html and Medieval Weights and Measureshttp://www.wordiq.com/definition/Medieval_weights_and_measures

13 December 2005: Marva Anyanwu [Wendell Green School, science]            Teaching the Metric System
Marva asked us to write down in proper format the expressions for three hundred millimeters [300 mm] and thirty-six kilograms [36 kg] on a sheet. Then she gave us each a list of eight questions to answer, as well as an answer sheet. Here are the questions and answers about the metric system [http://lamar.colostate.edu/~hillger/#metric]:

1. Q: What is the official name of the modern metric system and what is its abbreviation?
A: The official name is International System of Units. Its abbreviation is SI (Système Internationale d'Unités).
2. Q: How many basic units are there in the metric system? What are they?
A: The metric system consists of seven base units: meter (m), kilogram (kg), second (s), Kelvin (K), Ampère (A), mole (mol), and candela (cd).
3. Q: Which metric units are preferred for expressing clothing and body units?
A: The centimeter (cm) is preferred for measuring clothing and body measurements.
4. Q: What is the difference between temperatures in degrees Celsius and Kelvin?
A: The degree Celsius is meant for ordinary temperatures (with 0oC as the freezing temperature of water and 100 oC as the boiling temperature of water at sea level). The Kelvin scale is a scientific scale for temperatures above absolute zero ( 0 K is about - 273 oC).
5. Q: Which is larger, a quart or a liter ... and how many milliliters large is it?
A: A liter is larger than a quart. It contains 54 milliliters (mL ) more than a quart. A liter contains 1000 mL. A quart contains 946 ml.
6. Q: Which metric system prefix means one-millionth?
A: The metric system prefix for one-millionth is micro.
7. Q: What is the difference between mass and weight?
A: Mass is the quantity of matter, measured in kilograms (kg). In everyday language, mass is usually called "weight", as in "my weight is 68 kg" or "I weigh 68 kg". However, in correct scientific language, the word weight is reserved for the force of gravity, which is measured in Newtons (N). [It is more correct, technically, to state "my mass is 68 kg". However, in everyday life, the word "weight" is used.]
8. Q: What are the short forms for metric units called?
A: The short forms for metric units are called symbols. [It is not correct to call them abbreviations.]
We discussed the questions and answers for a few minutes.  Porter made these comments about everyday life in a metric country, based upon his two years of experience living in The Netherlands in the 1970s and 1980s:
• The essence of the "metric system" is a set of units separated by factors of ten, rather than the more primitive units based upon separations by factors 2, 4, 12, and 20.  In 1789 the newly formed United States of America was the first large nation in the world that adopted "base ten money" based upon "dollars and cents", rather than "pounds, shillings, and pence". The Napoleonic monetary system of "francs and centimes" was a copy of ours. Napoleon also developed a base ten metric system of units --- he even experimented with "base 10 time units -- 100 days per year", but that idea was quickly found to be impractical, and we still have "base 24 and base 60" primitive time units. [Except for Swatch Time -- for details see the Swatch Internet Time website: [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swatch_Internet_Time] The base-10 English system of units was adopted in the United Kingdom after the defeat of Napoleon. The English unit system was a "parallel version" of the Napoleonic system, based upon the foot, pound, and second. The "standard pound" and "standard foot" were located in Greenwich (London environs), whereas the "standard kilogram and meter" were located in Paris for over two centuries.
• One real advantage to a more primitive unit system is that it is easier to split things into halves, thirds and quarters than in a metric unit system. North Americans living in continental Europe very quickly realize that they get ten eggs in a carton or a ten-pack of beverages.  What can a chef do with only 10 eggs, with three, four, or six per serving?
• The average European is no more scientifically literate than the average North American. The green grocer will have no understanding of the distinction between mass versus weight. S/he will know nothing about English units, and cannot possibly convert back and forth.  In a purely metric country, conversion simply involves multiplying and dividing by factors of 10. European Ounces (actually, 100 grams) and pounds (actually, 500 grams) are very commonly used in commerce.
• In Germany the beverage glasses must be marked in cl (centiliters) or dl (deciliters).  For example, 0,5 dl (Eur) or 0.5 dL (USA) means 5 deciliters, or a half-liter.  By law the glass must be filled to that mark with beverage, not counting foam!
• European clothing sizes, while based on the metric system, are no more rational than those in the USA -- and certainly not simpler to use! Ladies unmentionables are purchased in sizes 75 - 80 - 85 - 90. These numbers, which refer to centimeters, correspond approximately to 30 - 32 - 34 - 36 inches. However, it is pointless to convert them from metric to English units, since they are defined in terms of a different torso measurement. A similar story goes for all clothing --- try it on to be sure that it will fit you!
• American shoe sizes 9 - 10 - 11 refer directly to foot length in inches, whereas European shoe sizes 41 - 45 are defined more indirectly. Caveat emptor!
• In the USA there are standard sizes for plumbing fixtures, building hardware, and building construction, whereas in Europe these things are widely variable, even in a given country. In addition, it is often challenging to flush the toilets in the various European countries!  There are distinct commercial advantages to living in large nations with strong central governments, which spread across the entire continent, as in the USA.

24 January 2006: Marva Anyanwu (Wendell Green Elementary School)            Measure your metric knowledge and What is your nano IQ?
Marva handed out a crossword puzzle relating to the metric system, along with some clues and the solution.  In addition, she distributed the quiz What's Your Nano IQ?, which appears on the web site:  http://www.nano.gov/html/edu/eduk12.html. You can take the quiz and determine your Nano-IQ, with the following scale:

 Number Correct Rating 0 - 3 Nano Novice 4 - 6 Nano Nerd 7 - 10 Nano Genius
These are two very interesting nano-assignments for us and our students.  Thanks, Marva.