## The Metric System

The metric system is a system of units for measuring quantities such as the length of a line or the weight of a person. There are basic units for length, mass, capacity and time. Many other units are combinations of these. Because many measurements are too large or small to be conveniently expressed in these basic units, the size of the basic unit can be increased or decreased by multiples of 10, and this is shown by a prefix such as kilo- or milli-.

### The Basic Units

Length The basic unit for length is the metre (symbol m).

Mass

• The basic unit for mass is the gram (symbol g).
• Weight is commonly used to describe mass.
• A tonne is equal to 1000 kilograms. (This is called a metric ton).

Capacity

The basic unit for capacity or liquid volume is the litre (symbol L).

 Time The basic unit for time is the second. Time is not usually measured in multiples of 10. 1 minute = 60 seconds 1 hour = 60 minutes 1 day = 24 hours

For an exciting and fun practice with speed, distance, time and bearings −

### Prefixes

For measurements too big or too small for the basic units, the following prefixes can be used:

 Multiple of 10 Exponent Prefix Symbol Smaller than the basic unit ×10-3 milli- m ×10-2 centi- c ×10-1 deci- d The basic unit ×10 ×10 deca- D or da ×100 ×102 hecto- h Bigger than the basic unit ×1000 ×103 kilo- k

For even bigger or smaller measurements the following prefixes can be used.

 tera - giga - mega- micro- nano - pico - x 1012 x 109 x 106 x 10-6 x 10-9 x 10-12

To give an idea of the size of some of the more commonly used units:

 Measurement Unit Examples (approximation) Length 1 metre m 1 kilometre km 1 centimetre cm The width of a door Three laps of a running track The width of a \$1 coin Mass (weight) 1 gram g 1 kilogram kg A pinch of salt Two packets of butter Capacity 1 litre L 1 millilitre mL A carton of milk 5 mL is a small teaspoonful

### Temperature

• The basic unit of temperature is the degree centigrade (or degree Celsius)
• The freezing point of water is 0°C and the boiling point of water is 100°C.

### Time

There are two systems for telling the time.

am and pm

• Times during the first 12 hours of the day (during the morning between midnight and midday) are followed by the letters am
• e.g. 3.42 am means 42 minutes after 3 o'clock in the morning.
• Times during the last 12 hours of the day (during the afternoon and evening between midday and midnight) are followed by the letters pm
• e.g. 5.26 pm means 26 minutes after 5 o'clock in the afternoon.

24-hour clock

The hours of the day are numbered from 0 to 24, starting with 0 as the first hour after midnight.

 e.g. 0047 means 47 minutes past midnight 0800 means 8 o'clock in the morning 1530 means half past three in the afternoon 2307 means 7 minutes after 11 o'clock at night Melbourne, Australia at about 2030 in winter

Special times

Midday is written 1200 or 12.00 pm, noon or midday

Midnight is written 0000 or 12.00 am or midnight.