Linear Measurements in Metric & English Units: Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 Measurements Across the Ocean
  • 0:48 The English System
  • 1:49 The Metric System
  • 3:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Mark Boster
When using linear measurements, it's really important to know how many inches there are in a foot and a yard, or how many centimeters are in a meter. This lesson will help you figure that out.

Measurements Across the Ocean

One day, Thomas, who lives in the United States, called his friend Clive in England. While they were talking, they got into a discussion about height.

Thomas said he was 4 feet, 9 inches tall. Clive said he was 145 centimeters tall. They couldn't compare their heights because they were using different systems of measurement. Thomas was using the English method, while Clive was using the metric system.

However, both systems involve measuring with a ruler, which you can use to follow along with the examples here. When measuring, start at the first little line on the far left end of the ruler. The first little line often comes after the physical end of the ruler. Make sure you use the first little line!

The English System

The United States uses a linear measuring system that is called the English or Imperial System. Linear means in a line, or straight.

The English system of measurement uses inches, feet, and yards; inches are the smallest of these measurements that we'll discuss here. Everyday objects that measure about an inch long include a flip-top, a bottle cap on a can of pop, the last section of your thumb, and the distance across a quarter.

These items are about an inch long.

Sometimes you might have to measure an object that's more than just a few inches in length. As 12 inches equals a foot, you can measure things in feet. A sub sandwich shop offers sandwiches that are one foot long. So, the sandwich would be just as long as 12 quarters lined up next to each other.

Twelve inches (or quarters!) make a foot.

So, now you know that 12 inches make a foot. But what if you lined up three of those sandwiches or 36 quarters? Then you'd have a yard!

Let's review these basics:

  • 12 inches = 1 foot
  • 36 inches = 1 yard
  • 3 feet = 1 yard

The Metric System

The metric system is the system of measurement that most of the world uses. This system uses millimeters, centimeters, and meters.

Let's start with a meter. A meter is a little bit longer than a yard. It is about three inches longer. Now, let's pay attention to the prefix, or the part of the word before the word ''meter.''

You know there are 100 ''cents'' in a dollar. Do you see the prefix ''cent'' at the start of ''centimeter''? This tells you that there are 100 centimeters in a meter. A centimeter (cm) is about as wide as your pinky finger.

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