Counting the seconds until Metric Week (Oct. 9-15, 2011) begins? That's the spirit! Seconds are the metric unit of time. You also could figure your distance in meters (the metric unit of length) from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) labs in Gaithersburg, Md., where it's metric all year round.
This year marks the 35th annual celebration of Metric Week. Metric Week was begun by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics on May 10, 1976, approximately one year after the Metric Conversion Act of 1975. Now held the tenth day of the tenth month, Metric Week serves as an opportunity for teachers, students and the public to learn about the metric system, also known as the international system of units, or SI for short.
The U.S. government has adopted SI, long the standard measurement system of science and engineering, as the preferred system of weights and measures for commerce and industry. Based on units of 10, SI is very easy to learn, and many Americans know it better than they think. Many products, from bottled drinks to medicines to the nutritional values posted on cereal boxes many people read every morning, already are sold and conversed about in terms of their metric measures.
Being conversant in metric is essential for those seeking careers in science and engineering. "SI knowledge, skills and abilities are essential for students as they pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers," says Elizabeth Gentry, a metric coordinator at NIST. "Developing proficiency in metric measurements will prepare U.S. students to work with cutting-edge technology and develop innovative consumer products of the future."
This year, representatives from the NIST Metric Program will be celebrating Metric Week with more than 4,000 students and teachers at the Science and Technology Education Partnership (STEP) conference in Riverside, Calif., Oct. 25-26. Teachers and students who are interested in learning more about SI may download a variety of educational materials from NIST:
- Becoming Familiar with the SI (www.nist.gov/pml/wmd/metric/si-familiar.cfm)
- Education Resources (www.nist.gov/pml/wmd/metric/education.cfm)
- Everyday Estimation (www.nist.gov/pml/wmd/metric/estimation.cfm)
- Metric Units of Measurement (www.nist.gov/pml/wmd/metric/prefixes.cfm)
- Unit Conversions (www.nist.gov/pml/wmd/metric/unit-conversion.cfm)
- Measurements in Sports (www.nist.gov/pml/wmd/metric/sports.cfm)
Teachers can also request a classroom set of SI educational materials by submitting their contact information and grade level to TheSI@nist.gov.
More information about Metric Week can be found at these sites:
- National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) (www.nctm.org/news/content.aspx?id=10248)
- NCTM Position - Teaching the Metric System for America's Future (www.nctm.org/about/content.aspx?id=6346)
- National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Position - Use of the Metric System (www.nsta.org/about/positions/metric.aspx)
- U.S. Metric Association - Metric Week (http://lamar.colostate.edu/~hillger/metric-week.html)