UNDERSTANDING THE
METRIC SYSTEM
The Metric
System is based on powers of ten. The table below shows the progression of
prefixes.
PREFIX

SYMBOL

MATHEMATICAL
VALUE

exa

E

1,000,000,000,000,000,000

peta

P

1,000,000,000,000,000

tera

T

1,000,000,000,000

giga

G

1,000,000,000

meg

M

1,000,000

kilo

k

1,000

hecto

h

100

deka

da

10

(meter,
liter, gram)

1

deci

d

0.1

centi

c

0.01

milli

m

0.001

micro

µ

0.000,001

nano

n

0.000,000,001

pico

p

0.000,000,000,001

femto

f

0.000,000,000,000,001

atto

a

0.000,000,000,000,000,001

The unit of
measurement from length is the meter. The progression of the
more common units of measure are:
kilometer 
km 
1,000
meters 
meter 
m 
1.0 
centimeter 
cm 
0.01
meters 
millimeter 
mm 
0.001
meters 
nanometers 
nm 
0.000,000,001
meters 
The unit of
measure for capacity is the liter, so the measurements allow
the same progression, such as kiloliter, centiliter, and so on.
The unit of
measure for weight is the gram, so the measurement prefixes
are kilogram, centigram, and so forth.
When making
conversions within the metric system, each change in prefix
represents one decimal point move. If you move downward one the chart,
the decimal places will be added. If you move upward, the decimal places
are moved to the left. 