Teaching Students the Metric System

Re "Formulas for Math Problems," Jan. 5: In the pandemonium to "fix" U.S. mathematics education one glaring omission stands out: Why aren't we teaching the metric system, an advantage enjoyed by 93% of the world's students? Measurement is one of the prime applications of mathematics. How much time and money will we continue to squander teaching the outmoded inch-pound system?

Richard D. Phelps, American Institutes for Research, calculates that teaching solely metric system measurement could save 82 days of mathematical instruction time annually and would provide a yearly $17.6 billion in savings to U.S. education.

Learned scholars will attest to the fact that the metric system is easier to learn and use, and why metric's coherence, its simple base units and its use of decimal arithmetic make it an especially logical and useful measurement system. Because of its superiority the metric system has become the international language of measurement.

This is what the math curriculum experts would learn if they looked at the "big picture," which explains the necessity for the U.S. to teach and use the metric system. The U.S. industrial community is adopting the metric system because it is essential for our long-term competitiveness; all of our major trading partners want metric products. Wisely, U.S. law requires that the federal government procure metric products; currently $30 billion in federally constructed buildings are on the docket and all federal highways are being built to metric sizes. All sciences, medicine, engineering, space, computer technology, you name it, use the metric system. The world has changed, the country is changing. The question is, how much longer will it take for the mathematics community to wake up and design a world-class math/metric measurement curriculum that will help ensure the economic health of the country and a high standard of living for our citizens?


U.S. Metric Assn.

Rancho Palos Verdes

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