Next month (March 28 to be exact) I’m making a presentation on the metric system at a national conference in Santa Fe called MidSchool Math thanks to project supporters with Imagine Education. The theme of the entire conference is *Stop the Drop* and refers to international testing standards that show in 4^{th} grade, American kids are slightly above their cohorts in other countries in math but by 8^{th} grade, they score slightly below. It’s the hope of the conference’s organizers to start to reverse this trend. During the three-day conference, sessions will cover a variety of topics from *Mathematical Icebreakers* to a keynote session on *How to Make Kids Hate Math*. My session: *Math the Metric System: Using What’s Easy*. So far, eight people have registered but there’s more than a month to go.

The cost of the conference is $475 or $525 (that whole early bird thing) and if you’re a teacher in New Mexico, you could be eligible for a stipend of up to $1,000 to cover the conference and its associated costs. Check it out or spread the word.

Having written on the subject of education and the metric system, I have a place to start to build my presentation content, particularly on the subject of Common Core State Standards for math as they relate to the metric system. My session will be an hour and fifteen minutes long so I’ll have time to cover lots of material and, with the assistance of our federal government in the form of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (thanks Elizabeth!), I’ll be able to supply attendees with some modest metric supplies and games to take back to their classrooms.

Total side note: I was just looking for meter sticks on Amazon and came across “One Meter (39-1/2″) Wood Stick Ruler.” Really? You’d think if you were looking for a meter stick (and not a yardstick), you wouldn’t need to have the inches spelled out for you. How much time is wasted in this country having to continually include both metric and U.S. customary numbers? Then I found this in a description: “Meterstick is lightweight and ideal for the classroom. It measures 1 inch wide and 1/4 inch thick.” Pathetic. Let’s please get our metric act together.

I plan to devote quite a bit of time to developing the presentation. When people walk out the door, I want them to say “Wow” but in a good way. That will take time, research, rehearsal and matching my subject matter to my audience. I realize that public speaking frightens a lot of people (some studies rate it as the number one human fear!) but I don’t currently have that problem. I say currently because at one point in my career I wasn’t making a lot of presentations but once I needed to again, I was able to relax pretty quickly. My largest audience to date: more than 500 people. The only caveat to my being relaxed is I have to know my subject matter. That shouldn’t be a problem in this case.

Luckily, I also have some teaching background and found that I’m pretty accurate about being able to estimate how much material I can cover within a particular time period. Of course, it’s always a good idea to have a little extra, so in case you find yourself running short, you can continue a little longer if needed. As the saying goes, “Always leave them wanting more,” but you also want to make sure people walk away feeling like their time was well spent.

I’m also hoping there will be a method for people to feedback on how I did. I find constructive criticism very helpful. While it’s unlikely that I’ll give this exact talk again, who knows what parts of it could come in handy as the project progresses.

It will be nice to get out and interact with the attendees and the other presenters. I’m sure I’ll learn things that will benefit the documentary in ways that won’t seem obvious watching the end product but if you follow this blog, you may see how they ultimately inform me.

I’ll be sure to share what I find out that’s interesting and fun…stay tuned.

Linda

The emphasis on teaching the metric system has to be from a point of immersion. That is doing actual measurements, calculations, constructions, etc, using only the metric system. America is failing because the emphasis is on conversion. Students are taught to “Think USC” and convert any dimension in metric encountered to USC.

The question that needs to be addressed is how many teachers out there can properly teach the metric system? How many teachers are metric fluent? How many can measure a metric value and understand it without reverting to USC? I’d say very few. It is the blind leading the blind.

I graduated high school in 2010. In school we pretty much used only the metric system. I don’t remember the few times we used customary units. Metric was pushed as much more important and the only system used in science. Most people my age can take measurements in either system. I remembering measuring things at a young age in school in cm and mm.

I’m more proficient in metric and thankfully dual labeling allows me to buy food and understand the measurements. oz and fl oz mean nothing to me.

Talk to someone my age using metric measurements and they wont look at you funny and wonder what your talking about. Yes i can convert units when needed. But, i have a ‘feel’ for metric units as well as customary. No conversion necessary most of the time. I honestly don’t remember learning conversion in school though we probably learned them.

I know the inch, foot, gallon, yard, and pound. That’s pretty much all i know in customary units. I guess you can count mile as well. Most of these i learned a feel for outside of school. They were used very little in school.

My 2nd grader is currently doing measurement in her class. Her homework tonight illustrates how the use of the metric system is poorly understood by the writers of cirriculum. She is to use a foot/inch ruler, and measure a couple of objects and record the length in both feet and inches. The second half of the homework is to use the metric ruler and record the length of objects in both cm and dm. Decimeters. Her scissors are 1.2dm long. Someone somewhere does not understand that although meters are easily divided into tenths, this an extremely uncommon usage. I have never seen an object’s length described in dm.

Centimeters and millimeters are the standards, why are we teaching our 7 year olds that decimeters are a relevant unit to use (and mm ignored in this case)?