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The metric challenge.

In our September 4, 1992 issue, we challenged you to teach us the metric system--and tell us why we should bother learning it. Check out the responses that won light-up magnifying glasses--and made us throw away our yardsticks. (A classful of sluggers from Louisville batted three winners out ways!)

Nature's way

Metric units are based on the number ten--"one of the first numbers we understood when we were young," says Donnie Cantrell. "We learned to count to ten so easily by counting our fingers or toes.

"Possibly nature has been trying to tell us something since the beginning of mankind," Donnie says. "All the world can communicate in universal measurements if we start with the basic tools that nature gave us: ten fingers and ten toes. Learning the rest should be easy."

Good-bye to messy fractions!

Want to measure things more exactly? Go metric. Why? Because many metric units, such as the millimeter, are smaller than the comparable English unit> (e.g., inches). That means you don't have to estimate "inbetween" units. And with smaller units, there's no need to use fractions.

Travels well

Next time you take a road trip, take a pad, pen, and calculator along to help you eat up the miles--kilometer style. Every time you pass a sign that has a distance in miles, convert to kilometers (1 mile = .6214 kilometers). Challenge other travelers to see who can convert fastest. Just don't let the person who is driving play!

Metrics are easy and fast

Don't believe it? Try this experiment. Have two group measure a table--one in inches, the other in centimeters. Then time how long it takes each group to convert to a larger unit--from inches to yards or from centimeters to meters. (For an even greater challenge, let the two groups go head-to-head measuring liquid volume or mass.)

Makes cents

Like metric measures, our money system is based on units of ten. So if all else fails, take some change from your pockets and use the chart at right to help you remember the metric prefixes.

Want a way to pass notes in class that your teacher might not even mind? Try making and passing a metric puzzle note.

1. Write a secret message (or draw a picture) on cardboard.

2. Flip the cardboard over and divide the back into a grid of squares.

3. On each side of each square, write a metric measurement so that the measurements on all adjacent sides match up (see example, above).

4. After labeling all squares, cut them apart and give the puzzle to a friend. He or she should put the pieces together by matching up the metric measurements. When all pieces are in place, your friend can flip the puzzle over to reveal the message or picture.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Science World
Date:Jan 15, 1993
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