Metric Mania

General Lessons - Length, mass, volume, density, review pages (Student worksheets provided)
Conversion Practice (Student worksheets provided)
Metric System Lesson Plan Links & Online Resources

General Lessons
My metric unit includes labs on length, mass, volume, density, and temperature as well as conversions (metric to metric and metric to English). Students have many opportunities to use rulers, triple-beam balances, and other science equipment to learn how to use the metric system of measurements.

Lesson #1 - Length

Length Presentation (PPT) - I use this presentation to review the basic units of length and how to measure distances.

Length Worksheet (pdf) - Student worksheet that goes along with the presentation.

Length Lab (pdf) - Students are challenged to find the length of various objects in millimeters, centimeters, and meters.

Units of Measure - Length (pdf) - Thanks to Christina  Bryant for sharing this worksheet.

Lesson #2 - Mass

Mass Presentation (PPT) - I use this presentation to review the basic units of mass and how to measure mass using a triple-beam balance.

Mass Worksheet (pdf) - Student worksheet that goes along with the presentation.

Mass Lab (pdf) - For the mass lab, students first estimate the mass of various objects, then find the actual mass using triple-beam balances or other scales. To prepare for the activity you will need to organize various items (coins, paper clips, marbles, rocks, large washers/s-hooks, etc.) and triple-beam balances or scales for each group. They may group items together to reach a targeted mass, such as three pennies for 5 grams, or just use a single item. This lab is always a hit and the students get much needed estimation practice.
NOTE: Estimates should be checked before any measuring is allowed! Some students will skip the estimation step and advance to using the scales!

Another idea (from Sandra Gasparovich, Central Jr. High, East Peoria, IL) involves using film canisters, a triple-beam balance, and a variety of materials to create a set of masses. The students may use the masses during lab activities or challenge them to take them home and find items with like masses. Another twist is to fill pairs of canisters with various objects (pennies, popcorn, seeds, screws, washers, M&Ms). Give each student one canister and allow time for them to search for their "partner" - without looking into the canister. Once the groups have found their match, the students can check their results by opening the canisters.

Lesson #3 - Volume

Volume Presentation (PPT) - I use this presentation to review the basic units of volume and how to measure volume of regular and irregular objects.

Volume Worksheet (pdf) - Student worksheet that goes along with the presentation.

Volume Lab (pdf) - This lab consists of measuring the volume of liquids and regular solids as well as using graduated cylinders and overflow cans to find the volume of irregular objects (rocks).

Lesson #4 - Density

BrainPop Measuring Matter Video - Students watch the BrainPop movie and complete the activity sheets.

Mystery Canisters (pdf) - The density lab, known as Mystery Canisters, challenges students to modify three film canisters so that they have one that floats, one that sinks, and one that will remain suspended in the tub of tap water. Materials needed for the lab are: plastic tub of water (or the bottom half of a 2-liter soda bottle), three film canisters (free from Walmart, KMart, etc.), and an assortment of small objects (pennies, paperclips, marbles, etc.) for mass. Students will also need equipment to help them measure mass (triple-beam balance) and volume (graduated cylinders and overflow cans.)

Students are allowed a few minutes to create the three canisters that will (1) float, (2) sink, and (3) remain suspended. Students may have difficulty getting one of the cansisters perfectly suspended. If the students can get the canister to suspend with less than half of the lid above the surface, they should get numbers that result in a density close to 1.0 g/ml. Once the students have their canisters approved, they find the mass and volume of the canisters and calculate each density. They should notice that the floating vial has a density less than 1 g/ml, the sinking vial has a density greater than 1 g/ml, and the suspended vial has a density close to 1 g/ml.

Also try ...
Reinforce the lesson with the layering liquids activity from the website.

Also available ... Gummy Bear Lab (pdf) - This lab incorporates a variety of metric measurements (length, volume, mass, and density) to record what happens to a gummy bear when it is placed in a water overnight.
NOTE: This lab worksheet was based on a gummy bear lab available online; however, the website with the original lab is no longer available.

Review Materials

Metric Mania Survey (pdf) - This worksheet is used at the end of the unit to review the material we have studied.

Metric Challenge Puzzle (pdf) - Students review key terms from the metric system to discover the answer to a joke. An answer key is provided.


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Conversion Practice

Lesson #1 - English/Metric Conversions
English/Metric Conversion Presentation
English/Metric Conversions (pdf) - An answer key has been provided.

One part of my metric unit includes a few lessons related to conversions. My students have difficulty relating the English system of measurement (feet, pounds, and gallons) to the metric units (meter, kilograms, and liters).

The first lesson consists of making conversions from one system to the other. During this lesson, students use the information from a measurement chart to convert measurements. This assignment allows my students to connect the English system of measurements used in our daily lives to the metric system units.

Lesson #2 - Metric Conversions - Ladder Method
Metric Conversions Presentation
Metric Conversions (pdf)
- Includes two worksheets

Thanks to Christina  Bryant for sharing her worksheet - Meters, Liters, & Grams (PDF)

The second lesson focuses on using a "metric ladder" to calculate conversions within the metric system. In the beginning the lesson is focused on counting the number of "jumps" it takes to move from one metric unit to another. The "jumps" determine the number of times the decimal is moved and in which direction. I remind students to count the number of jumps it would take to move from one unit to another, such as moving from meters to millimeters, rather than counting the number of boxes. To convert from meters to millimeters, it would take 3 jumps to the right which would mean the decimal would need to move 3 jumps to the right. As they learn the process and understand the value of the metric prefixes, I introduce using multiplication and division by 10, 100, and 1000 to accomplish the same conversion. They quickly learn the relationships between metric units, such as 1000 milliliters in 1 liter.

Want a great way to help the students remember the order for the metric prefixes? Amy Monroe of Clifford H. Smart School in Commerce Township, Michigan, uses this phrase: "Kids Have Dropped OVER Dead Converting Metrics." The first letter of each word refers to one of the metric prefixes (kilo, hecto, etc.) and the "over" refers to the basic unit (meters, liters, or grams). Brad Loewen, a competitor in the Science Olympiad event titled Metric Estimation, used the phrase "King Henry Does Drink Chocolate Milk" to help his team finish in fourth place in the event at the state level.

Conversion Review - Metric Mania Scavenger Hunt Game
Challenge your students to a scavenger hunt with metric conversion problems! I hide 60 game cards with metric conversion problems in my room. Some of the cards are easy to see, while others are hidden under science tables, chairs, the garbage can, behind a curtain or poster, or other places that are easy to search. (I don't hide them inside anything so the kids don't have to go searching through my cabinets or desk drawers.) The kids work in teams to find the cards and solve the problems. Teams can only work on one card a time and must have the answer correct before they can start looking for another card. The team with the most cards at the end of the game wins a special reward - extra credit points or a piece of candy! Since I have more than one science class each day, I allow the kids to "hide" the game cards for the next class.

Game Cards - Front of cards (pdf) and Back of cards (pdf) - Print the "Metric Mania" (front of cards) on colored paper or cover stock, then print the problems on the back. I laminated my set so the cards can be used more than once and hold up to repeated use by junior high students.

Metric Mania Scavenger Hunt Game Student Worksheet (pdf) - Provides directions, game rules, and an area for students to write the answers.

Metric Mania Scavenger Hunt Answer Key (pdf) - An answer key for the problems on the cards. I cross off the numbers as the kids solve the problems so I can keep track of the number of cards that are still hidden.

Also available ... Thanks to Deborah Noles-Garcia for sharing her Metric Victims Game.

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Metric System Lessons Online

AAAMath Measurement Lessons - This site provides explanations, interactive practice pages, and challenge games about measurements.

Discovery School - A Metric World - This lesson provides students with an opportunity to compare measurement units - worksheets are provided!

Dr. Math Measurement Lessons - A collection of math lessons with ideas for length and volume.

EdHelper Measurement Worksheets - An assortment of worksheets and links to lessons involving measurement. Also visit the Measurement Lesson page!

Metric America - Explore this site for great activities to help your students master the metric system! Don't miss the Instant Metric area.

Mini Metric Olympics - Download this PDF with ideas for the Metric Olympics!

Metric System Info - Lots of great information for any unit on the metric system!

Metric Estimation Game ( - A great game involving the metric system that is played like the TV Game show "The Price Is Right"!

NIST Kids- Explore this site for great activities for your metric unit! Also check out their educator resources.

Science Teaching Ideas - Explore the metric system section of this page for some great lessons and activities!

SMILE Math page - The first section of this page contains lesson ideas for measurement.

Teach-nology Measurement Lessons - A large collection of links (with descriptions) to sites with lessons for measurement. - Visit this website for helpful hints and resources for your metric unit!

Think Metric - A great resource for information for students and teachers! The site also offers metric posters, rulers, games, and more!

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The Science Spot was developed in March 1999 by Tracy Tomm Science Teacher @ Havana Junior High, Havana, IL.  Activities, lessons, & worksheets available on any page of this web site are intended for use by a single teacher in his/her classroom or to share at educational conferences.  Reproduction for commercial use or profit is not permitted without the consent of Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm. Visit my Frequently Asked Questions page for more details.