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Metric System vs. Imperial System

Instructor: Mark Boster
The imperial system and the metric system are two ways to measure weight, length, temperature, and liquid. One way is not better than the other, and they are not dependent on each other. In this lesson, you will learn the history of both and their differences.

Measuring with Shoes

We Can Measure Using Shoes
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When Tom was a kid, he moved into a three-bedroom house with his family. His parents took the biggest bedroom and told Tom and his sister, Laura, to decide between the other two. They each went into a bedroom and used their shoes to see how big it was. The room Laura was in was 15 of her shoes long. The one Tom was in was 18 of his shoes long. Tom chose the room that was 18 shoes long because he thought it was bigger. He thought he won. But it turned out that Laura's feet were bigger than Tom's - even though her count was lower than his, the room was bigger. 'No Fair!' Tom cried. 'I wish there was a way we could measure distance that would be the same for both of us.' Well, there is actually more than one way! This lesson will discuss the differences between the imperial system and the metric system.

The Imperial System

A long time ago, Egyptians decided to measure using body parts. They used a foot to measure a foot, a thumb to measure an inch and the distance from your nose to your outstretched thumb to measure a yard. They also decided a cup was whatever amount of water you could cup in your hand. They came up with measurements for other things too, like weight, temperature, and liquid volume. This lasted for many years, but eventually they discovered a problem: everyone's thumbs and feet were different sizes.

They decided to make these measurements the same for everyone. They marked them on an iron rod so they wouldn't forget what they had decided. That is called the imperial system, and the United States is one of the three countries that still uses it today.

The Metric System

In another part of the world, some other people were also deciding how they were going to measure their world. They tried to figure out how far it was from the South Pole to the North Pole. Then, they divided it into one million parts and called each part a meter. They divided the meter into 100 equal pieces and called them centimeters. A kilometer is 1000 meters because 'kilo' means 1000. One of the countries in which this system is still used is England, but it is also used in the vast majority of the world. This system is called the metric system.

Inch and Centimeter Ruler
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