Metric Units of Length: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jeremy Cook

I have been teaching elementary school for 16 years. I have extensive experience in lesson and curriculum development and educational technology.

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

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account