What is a Cubic Meter? - Definition & Conversion

Instructor: Kathleen Laib

I have been a teacher for 10 years with eight of those years teaching 4th grade. I have a master's of Ed and an ELL Endorsement.

This lesson will define and discuss the unit of measurement known as a cubic meter. You will also learn the tricks for converting from cubic meter to other units of volume measurement.

What is a Cubic Meter?

The term 'cubic meter' may sound complex and fancy, but it's really just the name of a block of space--a cube--that is a very specific size. This cube is a perfect cube. The length, width and height are all the same: 1 meter. (One meter is equal to about 3.28 feet, which is just a little bit longer than a yardstick you might find in your classroom.)

A cubic meter is 1 meter on all sides.
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Measuring Volume

We use 'cubic meter' as a unit to measure the amount of stuff we can fit into that cube--also called the volume of the cube. So, we could use cubic meters to explain how much cement you would need to fill the patio in your backyard or how much sand you would need to fill your sandbox.

But how do we measure volume? It's different than measuring the distance of a line or the area of a flat shape. To find volume, you measure the space or object from three sides--width, depth and height--and then multiply the measurements together.

The formula for measuring volume is height x width x length.
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Say, for example, that you want to measure the volume of your swimming pool. You find that it measures 2 meters deep (height), 10 meters wide and 12 meters long. To find the cubic meters, you multiply the three together: 2 x 10 x 12 = 240 cubic meters. That's a lot of water!

Converting Cubic Meters

Sometimes, you need to convert (change) cubic meters to or from another unit of measurement. Say, for instance, that you decided to fill your bathtub with milk, which would require you to convert from cubic centimeters to gallons. Let's explore some common cubic meter conversions, their formulas and examples of how to convert.

Cubic Meters to Cubic Feet

In the United States, we tend to use feet instead of meters. If you find yourself needing to turn cubic meters to cubic feet, you simply need to multiply the number of cubic meters by 35.3147.

Say you want to know the cubic feet of a bookcase. The product description says it is 0.764555 cubic meters. To find the cubic feet, multiply this number by 35.3147. So, 0.764555 x 35.3147 = 27 cubic feet.

Cubic Meters to Cubic Yards

Yards are units often used in manufacturing and to measure fabrics. One cubic meter contains 1.30795 cubic yards. So, to convert cubic meters to cubic yards, simply multiply the number of cubic meters by 1.30795.

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