Understanding the Two Basic Systems of Measurement

by Laurie Laurendeau on January 24, 2012

The United States has tried for years to convert to the Metric system.  Your child is more than likely learning both the U.S. Customary Measure, as well as the Metric system, in the ongoing attempt to convert Americans to the measuring system used in most other countries around the world.  Unfortunately, because your child is learning two systems of measurement, this can be a source of confusion. You will first want to point out to your child that there are two systems of measurement, and that there are 3 categories of measurement (Linear or length, Weight and Capacity).  Brainstorm with your child any units of measures that he already knows.  You can give him a simple chart like the one below:

U.S. Customary Metric




Here are the typical measures that your child will be learning at school, under each category (your child will hopefully come up with some of these!) U.S. Customary                                                             Metric

Linear: inch (in)                                                millimeter (mm)

foot (ft)                                                                    centimeter (c m)

yard (yd)                                                                meter (m)

mile (mi)                                                                 kilometer (km)


ounce (oz)                                                             milligram (mg)

pound (lb)                                                             gram (g)

ton (T)                                                                     kilogram (kg)


fluid ounce (fl. oz)                                              milliliter (ml)

cup (C)                                                                    centiliter (cl)

pint (pt)                                                                  liter (L)

quart (qt)

gallon (G)

Be sure to point out to your child any units of measurement as you come across them.  For example, when you pull the milk out of the fridge, ask your child to find the unit of measure, and ask him to tell you what type of measure it is (capacity), and which system of measurement (ex: Gallon of milk is U.S. Customary).  There are many examples of units of measurement in your kitchen… see how many you can find together!


  • As always, playing math games at home is a great way to reinforce math skills learned in school.
  • Have questions or ideas about this story?
  • Need help or advice about your child’s learning?
  • Have ideas for future Parent Homework Help stories?

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