Linking mathematical concepts to real-life situations and challenges is essential to effectively understand mathematics. The use and comprehension of units of measurement are key to learning mathematics, as they can be applied to many different contexts. For instance, the conversion of temperature or distance units can drastically change the solution to a situation. This emphasizes the importance of understanding and using them from an early age, so students can better comprehend the value of mathematics and its role in the world.
As it is known, educational practices and language vary depending on the context; however, when it comes to mathematics, a universal language that can be adapted to different contexts without changing its true sense of operation must be used. To ensure this, units of measurement must be standardized according to the geographical area in which they are used. To this end, the International System of Units (SI) and the Imperial or English System have been established.
In this blog, we will explore the importance of identifying different measurement systems and how they can benefit students.
In his article “Teaching SI Units in Engineering and Technology Programs,” which was presented at the 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia, Osakue (2013) states that:
“In the United States academia, the SI units and standards are popular in the scientific community while the English units and standards are popular in the engineering and technological communities. Because the English units system is used in training the vast majority of our engineers, technologists, and technicians, they are probably ill-equipped for the global stage where the SI units system is the measurement language of trade and science. This requires that assignments for students should have 20%, 40%, 60%, and 80% minimum metric content for first-, second-, third-, and fourth-year students.
The article highlights the importance of understanding and properly applying these units in the engineering field.
This explains how, in the learning process, it is important to understand that the system of units of measurement is the language through which the magnitude of a quantity is universally communicated. This makes it a fundamental tool for understanding various processes, laws, quality, and safety standards that are required in different fields.
The International System of Units (SI) is the most widely used, as it is the official system adopted by most countries. It is based on important units, such as the meter, the kilogram, and the second, which enables people worldwide to communicate accurately and consistently. The Imperial or English System, used in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, employs units of measurement such as feet, inches, pounds, and ounces.
Learning to apply both systems of measurement not only provides students with a deeper understanding of how measurements are made, but also enables them to work more effectively with professionals around the world, particularly in fields such as scientific research, engineering in its various branches, and any sphere of the industry today. When applied in a real-world context, this knowledge ensures quality and precision in the production and manufacturing of products all over the world.
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Benefits of Recognizing the Systems of Units of Measurement in the Learning Process
Having children learn about measurement systems can provide them with several benefits for their cognitive development and daily lives. Below are some of these benefits:
- Fosters logical and mathematical thinking: Children should understand mathematical concepts such as fractions and proportions when learning to measure, as well as perform basic arithmetic operations such as addition and subtraction. It will foster the skills that will be useful in their academic and daily lives.
- Develops accuracy and attention to detail: Measurement involves being accurate and paying attention to detail. Children must learn to accurately read measuring instruments, such as a ruler or thermometer, and make comparisons between them. All of this helps develop their ability to pay attention to detail and be accurate in their work.
- Facilitates understanding of other subjects: Taking measurements is a component found in many areas of knowledge, including science, technology, and engineering. Children will be better prepared to understand these topics in other settings by learning measurement systems.
- Aids in problem-solving: Measurement is essential to solving many everyday problems. Children can use measurement systems to calculate the number of ingredients needed for a recipe, determine the size of a room, or measure the amount of time it takes to do a task. All of this helps develop their ability to solve problems effectively.
- Prepares for life in a globalized world: In an increasingly globalized world, children need to understand the measurement systems used around the world. By learning measurement systems, children will be better prepared to communicate with people from different cultures and understand measurement systems used in other countries.
Learning to use all measurement systems can help students develop their ability to communicate with people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. In an increasingly interconnected world, students must learn to work with people in different contexts and different areas of knowledge. It also opens up the spectrum for them to identify different applications ranging from technical to everyday uses in various countries and cultures. Having students understand the differences between measurement systems makes them more competent and enables them to be more assertive in an ever-changing world.
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CloudLabs Virtual STEM as an Interactive Alternative
CloudLabs offers a wide range of learning environments that enable students to apply their knowledge of units of measurement in real-world contexts, not only in mathematics but also in areas such as Biology, Physics, and Chemistry. Rather than solely focusing on teaching what units of measurement are, it allows learning how to perform measurement unit conversions and apply them in specific situations. CloudLabs also allows using different measurement systems depending on the context requirements. For example, students can learn to convert between metric and standard measurements in a chemistry or physics experiment.
An example of this can be seen in the simulator “Measuring the Heat Capacity of a Calorimeter,” from the subject area of calorimetry in chemistry. Here, the units of temperature measurement can be changed from degrees Celsius (°C) to degrees Fahrenheit (°F), the units of volume from milliliters (mL) to fluid ounces (fl oz), and the units of mass from grams (g) to pounds (lb).
Another example is the high school math simulator about triangles and trigonometric ratios called “London Bridge Rescue – Trigonometric Ratios”. Here, in the international system, we can find the height of the crosswalk and the rescue distance in meters, whereas when we make the change to the English system, these units are in feet.
The gamified simulation environments allow us to adapt the variables to the different measurement systems, strengthening the logical-mathematical skills and generating conceptual flexibility in the work competencies that are developed.