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A Metrics Lesson

In 1972, Lee was a newspaper reporter. She wrote an editorial on the need for America to convert to using the Metric system. The U.S. is one of two countries in the world that use conventional measurements. Over 30 years later, this complete conversion has not occurred. In math lessons, Texas students still use the conventional system to measure. In science, however, Texas students are exposed to and learn to measure with the metric system. 

To help students learn the metric prefixes, Lee wrote a song. Each student holds a "Metligram" before the song begins. This is to familiarize the students with sizes.


The "Metligram" is easy to make. It simply is a meter stick with a one liter bottle taped to it and inside the bottle is a one-gram chip.

One students are familiar with the starting point, we sing the Metrics Family Song, which takes us to levels of more than one as well as to levels of less than one.

Here are the lyrics to the Metric Family song, written by Lee to the tune of "This Old Man." The graphic is of EWoman, one of the Microsoft Agents who was used in the PowerPoint containing the lyrics. Using MASH software (see Teacher Resources page), EWoman can sing the lyric.


The Metrics Family

                   led by Microsoft Agent Character “E-Woman”

                      Lyrics by Lee Gabor, Tune: This Old Man


(1st verse is sung using the "Metligram" shaker instrument - each student shakes the instrument in time to the music; the "Metligram" represents 1 meter, 1 liter, or 1 gram. By adding the prefix to the one item in the Metligram, the student has a larger unit, example: 100 liters is a hectoliter or 10 meters is a decameter or 1000 grams is a kilogram.)  

Verse 1:

Hector Hecto is a hundred years old. On a centigrade thermometer he’s hot, not cold.

He loves Kimmy Kilo, but she’s too old for him. A thousand pounds, she’s fat not thin!

Delores Deka is their favorite child. She’s ten years old, very sweet and mild.

She says, “Hecto has two and Kilo has three. I have just one, what’s this mystery?” [WHAT IS SHE TALKING ABOUT? and while asking this, students put down their Metligrams and each is given a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup, a napkin, and a plastic knife]

(Answer to question: zeros, of course, the students will figure this out)  

(2nd verse is sung without the "Metligram" shaker instrument; after this verse, students will work on dividing the Reeses into pieces.)  

Verse 2:

One day Delores took her scissors of steel. Her goal was ten avocados to peel.

But the blades slipped badly and fell into her Reeses. Now her candy is in tiny pieces.

First she cut 10, Deci it is called, 1/10th of a thing, just watch those pieces fall!

Then each Deci separates into 10 more parts, making Centi, like 1/100th of a heart.

Milli wears 1/1000th of a big pink hat. Walking behind her is a tiny ugly rat!

What a family the Metrics are, all based on tens, We love them, they’re our measurement friends.

 [question: Which words have the letter “i” at the end with its tiny itsy bitsy dot?]



The lesson starts with the objective, which is to learn the prefixes. Students make a "Metligram" and use it to keep time for the first half of the song. 

A thousand of these (meters, liters, grams) are kilometers, kiloliters, kilograms. 

A hundred are hectometers, hectoliters, and hecograms (although this is seldom used). 

Ten are dekameters, dekaliters, and dekagrams.

Students can write these vocabulary words on paper for the Word Wall or as notes for their binders.


The "Metligram" is put aside for the second half of the song. Before singing the second half, students are each given a Reeses Peanut Butter cup, a napkin, and a plastic knife. They are asked to place the knife and round Reeses to look like the letter "i." That is to help them remember that deci, centi, and milli end in the letter "i."


The second half of the song is sung one or two times. Then the students are instructed they will cut the candy into pieces, but this must be done in a step-by-step process. They will cut 10 pieces first and there is an extended lesson here. Students are asked how many degrees are in a circle (360) and, therefore, how many degrees will be in each 10th (36). 

Students can use their protractors to mark the 36 degree sections so they can cut their Reeses into 10 pieces. (A student is brought to the Overhead Projector where a transparancy of a circle is laid. Using a see-through protractor, the student shows peers how to find the 36 degree sections. 

Peer teaching should be done as much as possible.

Once the candy is in 10 pieces, students are asked to cut each piece into another 10, which cannot easily be done. They are asked about cutting the Reeses into a thousand pieces. This helps students to remember. 

Finally, the song is sung again all the way through. The objective is reviewed. Did students understand the six prefixes that are used in the Metric System?

Follow-up lesson in Lee's class used the Bingo game Lee created using prefixes. For a website with various Excel templates for games, click here.

Copyright 2002-2017 Lee Gabor All Rights Reserved