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A Metric World

A Metric World

Humankind has been assigning numeric measurements to linear dimensions such as length and width for a long, long time. Early measurement referred to parts of the body including the hand, forearm, or finger to describe length. As society began to demand more precision in measurement, a more exact system was necessary.

The framework for the metric system began in 1670 by a French vicar named Gabriel Mouton. In 1790, the French Academy of Sciences created a standard system of measurement based on Mouton’s work. This system established standard units of measure, with larger and smaller units created by multiplying and dividing by 10. For example, the meter was established as the basic unit of length. To create smaller units of length, the meter was divided into ten parts, which were then in turn divided into ten even smaller parts. To create larger units, the meter was multiplied by ten. Thus, the metric system is a “decimal” or “base 10” system of measurement.

Over the years, the metric system has become more integral in measurement in the United States. In 1866, the government determined that the metric system was an accepted system of measurement in the United States. A business contract using metric measurements could no longer be declared void because of the use of these units.

The year 1875 brought about the United States’ involvement in the Meter Convention, or Treaty of the Meter, which further standardized the metric system of measurement. To further the use of the metric system in the United States, Congress enacted the Metric Conversion Act of 1975, calling for a voluntary conversion to the metric system. In 1988, amendments to this Act named the metric system the preferred system for use in business dealings.

Despite this history and good intentions for legislatively guiding the United States into the metric system of measurement, we remain a non-metric country. We share this dubious distinction with only two other countries in the world, Liberia (on the west African coast) and Myanmar (formerly Burma, Southeast Asia). Both Liberia and Myanmar are underdeveloped, third world countries.

Why is it Important to Learn Metrics Early?

At birth, the human brain is far from being fully developed. A newborn baby has about twice as many brain cells (neurons) as it will have later in life and as an adult. During early development, these cells are reduced in number as important connections between them (synapses) are made based on experience in the world. Importantly, new connections are made as a result of learning.

The illustration below gives an idea of how important the early years of development are in the development of cognitive (thinking) skills. Between the ages of 3 and 6, there is a tremendous increase in cognitive ability. This is the most explosive increase in cognitive skills that will ever occur in an individuals entire lifetime.

It is during these early years of brain development that children develop their sense of numbers and quantity, among many other concepts. In essentially all other countries in the world, children experience this crucial development in a purely metric environment. They develop a “sense” or “feel” for metric quantiles. They think about their school as so many kilometers from their house. They think of their own weight and height in kilograms and centimeters. They visualize liquids in liters and milliliters.

In non-metric countries, like the United States, young children develop number sense in pounds, miles and gallons. Only when it comes time to learn science or other STEM subjects do these children begin to use the metric system. In other words, U.S. children not only are exposed to brand new ways of thinking about physics, chemistry, biology and other science domains, they are also exposed to a whole new, entirely different system of measurements, numeric units and vocabulary!

This puts U.S. students at a clear disadvantage compared to their counterparts in every other developed country in the world and it shows. Students in the U.S. typically score well below many other developed countries in both mathematics and science in international standardized tests. The LabLearner Metric Lab was designed to teach children the metric system and avoid these disadvantages. At the same time, LabLearner Metric Lab teaches the most basic and important aspects of scientific experimentation and data analysis using the metric system.

We are very pleased that you have purchased the LabLearner Metric Lab. We believe that you have made a wise decision – one that will give you some powerful tools to take into life whether you wish to be a scientist, engineer, or any other STEM profession. It will also be of advantage to you regardless of what your ultimate career choice my be, because it will help develop a way of thinking that is perfect for problem-solving and critical thinking in any and all aspects of life. What’s more, its fun!