Converting 1 Pound to Ounces: Steps & Tutorial

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Have you ever forgotten how many ounces are in a pound? The system of standard weights and measures can be very confusing. This lesson goes over an example of how to convert 1 pound into ounces.

Setting Up the Problem

Troy and his friends have run into a problem converting pounds into ounces because they can't remember how many ounces are in a pound. They need to know this information so they can split up the Halloween candy they have in a pile in front of them from trick-or-treating. Unfortunately, it rained tonight, and they have only managed to gather 1 pound of candy between them. They also only have a scale that measures a maximum of one ounce. How can they convert the 1 pound of candy into an equivalent amount measured in ounces so they can split up the candy? Let's take a look.

What the boys are looking for, without knowing it, is a conversion factor. A conversion factor is a ratio that helps convert a measurement in one set of units into another set of units. In this case the boys need to know the conversion factor to go from pounds to ounces. The way you use a conversion factor is to take the number of units you have and multiply it by the conversion factor. In this candy example, it would look like this:

(1 lb of candy) (x ounces / 1 lb)

Notice how the units being converted FROM go on the bottom of the conversion factor, and the units being converted TO go on the top? This is important to make the units work out correctly.

Since the only unknown in this system for the boys is the x part of the conversion factor, they eventually decide to weigh out 1 ounce piles of the candy until the entire bag is empty. That will give them a total number of ounces in the 1 pound bag. Then they can divide that number by four to and give each boy exactly the right amount.

After much weighing and impatience, the boys finally agree that there are 16 ounces in a pound. Using our conversion factor this becomes:

(1 lb of candy) (16 ounces / 1 lb)

Notice that there are units of pounds on both the top and bottom of this expression - meaning that those units cancel out. This leaves only ounces - which is what the boys want to know.

Now that the units are correct, the math is easy:

(1)(16)/(1) = 16.


The final answer the boys arrive at is that there are exactly 16 ounces in one pound. The boys are able to use that information to give each boy the proper amount of candy.

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