What is a Meter? - Definition & Conversion

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

Can you imagine not being able to tell someone how tall you are? This is very difficult without a measurement system. In the metric system, a meter is a unit of measurement for distance. Learn what a meter is, its history, and how to convert meters to other units of measurement.

What is a meter?

Olympic runners finishing the 100-meter race

Imagine that you are in a jumping contest with a group of your friends. In order to win, you must jump the farthest distance from the starting line. In order to determine who the winner is, you will have to measure who jumped the furthest. You can measure using many different standard units of measurement, including measuring in meters. A meter is a standard metric unit that is used to measure length. This means that a meter is part of the metric system of measurement.

Guitars, baseball bats, and yard sticks are examples of objects that are about one meter long. Meters are also used to measure distances in races, such as running and swimming. It makes sense to use meters to measure a fence for your backyard, or the width of a house. Smaller objects, like a mouse or a paper clip, would not be appropriately measured using meters. Some distances, like the distance between two cities, are too large to measure using meters.

History of the metric system

The green countries currently use the metric system

The metric system was created in France in order to have a systematic way to measure length, mass, and volume. Before the metric system was created, there were almost 800 different measurement systems in France. Can you imagine not being able to tell someone how tall you are or how much something weighs? It would be pretty challenging! Today, almost every country in the world uses the metric system, with the exception of the United States, Liberia, and Burma. Those countries use the standard system.

Metric Conversions

Use the conversion chart to help you convert meters to other units of measurement

A meter is the base unit of length in the metric system and can easily be converted to other units in the metric system. A key to the organization of the metric system is to pay attention to the prefixes. For example, a kilometer has the prefix 'kilo-', which means thousand. Therefore, the word kilometer literally means 1,000 meters. So,

1 kilometer = 1,000 meters

2 kilometers = 2,000 meters

3 kilometers = 3,000 meters

Make sense?

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