Kilometers, Centimeters… microfarads, farads… They units are all a multiple of 10, but that doesn’t make them that much easier as you are first learning them. What is 1.09km in cm? or 1205cm in km? With a quick jotted down note card you can very quickly see what any commonly used metric unit converts to!

First, write these common units on a card or grid paper:

The letters will stand for Giga-, Mega-, Kilo-, base(whatever the unit is, volt, meter, amp… etc.), and smaller units centi-, milli-, micro-, nano. For distance measures for example, you enter the value digit by digit starting in the appropriate box:

Let’s say you have 0.001 km. How far is that? Enter it with the dot (.) just above and to the right of “k”:

Now with the 10-based metric system you can change the (.) to the right or left to convert. How many mm is .001 km?

That’s right, 1000mm. (or 100cm) is 1 meter also.

What is equivalent to 25cm? You can see it would be 1/4 or 0.25 meter, or 250mm:

How about a harder one, what would 529.05 km be in cm?

Add 3 zeros to make the (.) above and to the right of “m”, and you can see that’s 52905000 centimeters.

Similarly, you can see the above distance is 0.00052905 GIGAmeters just by reading with the (.) just above the G.

*Just make sure when entering a number you start the ones digit just above the unit you are entering… the read from the unit you want to convert to!*

There is one exception however. A kilobyte or megabyte is generally not considered a multiple of 1000 or a million, but 1024 or 1024*1024. Why? If you had, say 10 on/off switches that can reference some starting byte, you could have numbers 0000000000 though 1111111111 (1023), including the first 0 that would make 1024 spaces that could be referenced.