Questions for ‘Meet the newest additions to the metric system’

A photo of six old fashioned golden weight in a line from the smallest weight to the left and the biggest weight on the right, all on a black background

To handle an exponential growth in data, the metric system is getting its first update in three decades Based on the measuring system's new prefixes, Earth’s mass is about six ronnagrams. That’s a six followed by 27 zeroes.

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To accompany Meet the newest additions to the metric system


Before Reading:

1. The United States uses a system of standard measurements similar to the imperial system (with a few minor exceptions in terms of fluid measurements). Units in this U.S. standard system include inches, gallons, miles, cup and acre. Much of the rest of the world uses another system of measurements. What is it commonly called?

2. What is the basis of that other system, formally known as the International System of Units (abbreviated S.I. for the French name: Système Internationale or International System)? For instance, the units in this system tend to get a new prefix for each change in size that is how big (or small)?

During Reading:

1. What are the new metric-system prefixes and how are they represented numerically?

2. When and where were the new prefixes adopted?

3. Why do we need new prefixes?

4. What was one sign that new prefixes were needed, according to Richard Brown?

5. What is the benefit of having units and prefixes that everyone can agree on? Explain your answer.

6. What are the masses of Earth and an electron using the new prefixes?

After Reading:

1. Do you think the new unit prefixes were truly needed? Explain why or why not. For instance, does Richard Brown’s argument convince you?

2. Brown notes that some people came up on their own with new prefixes for very large and very small units. Work with a friend and come up with your own alternative new prefixes for the new size ranges. Explain why you chose them. Then as a class, vote on which units the group would prefer. (You can add the newly announced formal prefixes to the options on which your class votes.)