Metric Units of Length: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jeremy Cook

Jeremy has been teaching in elementary education for 13 years and holds a master's degree in Education

How tall are you? If someone asked you that question, what would you say? If you answered that you were 147 centimeters, then you would be using the metric system. This lesson will teach you about measuring length using the metric system.

The Metric System

When you ask yourself questions like, ''How far away is that?'' or ''How long is that table?,'' you are trying to find out length. One way to find out length is using the metric system. To figure out the metric system, let's first look at the word metric.

Can you hear another part of a word in there that sounds familiar? Do you hear part of the word meter? The metric system of length is based on the meter. Just in case you are wondering, a meter is about the length of a wooden guitar.

If the unit of length that you are using is either bigger or smaller than a meter, then you add a certain prefix to the word meter. A prefix is a group of letters added to the beginning of a word.

Most rulers have the metric system on one side
Metric Ruler

Metric Prefixes

The metric system is based on units of 10. So think of a meter as 1. As you get bigger by the power of 10, you add a prefix to change the name of the measure. So 10 meters is the prefix deca, 100 meters is the prefix hecto and 1000 meters is the prefix kilo.

  • 10 meters = 1 decameter
  • 100 meters = 1 hectometer
  • 1000 meters = 1 kilometer

When you are dealing with units of measurement that are less than a 1 meter, fractions of a meter, you have a different set of prefixes to describe the units. So if you have .1 or 1/10th of a meter, you will use the prefix deci, 1/100 or .01 of a meter is the prefix centi and 1/1000 or .001 of a meter is the prefix milli.

  • 1/10 or .1 meter = 1 decimeter
  • 1/100 or .01 meter = 1 centimeter
  • 1/1000 or .001 meter = 1 millimeter

The fact that the metric system of measurement is based on 10 makes it very easy to covert between different units of length. So converting between smaller and larger units doesn't take complicated math and formulas.

Each power of ten gets a different prefix attached to the word meter
Metric Prefix Chart

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