Skip to main content
Biology LibreTexts

1.2: Metric System Prefixes and the Metric Ladder

  • Page ID
    24123
  • Prefix Fraction Decimal Scientific Notation
    nano (n) = 1 billionth 1/1,000,000,000 0.000000001 10-9
    micro () = 1 millionth 1/1,000,000 0.000001 10-6
    milli (m) = 1 thousandth 1/1,000 0.001 10–3
    centi(c) = 1 hundredth 1/100 0.01 10-2
    kilo (k) = 1 thousand 1000 1000 103

     

    metricConversions.PNG

     

    Remember

    • The metric system is based on units of 10. Count zeros. Consult the metric ladder as to how many spaces to move the decimal point.
    • Move the decimal left when converting from a smaller to larger value (DIVIDE)
    • Move the decimal right when converting from a larger to smaller value (MULTIPLY)

     

    Example \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    One meter is how many kilometers? The question involves going from a smaller value (meter) to a larger value (kilometer). Move the decimal to the left (divide)

    Solution

    1.0 meter = .001 kilometers = 1 X 10-3 kilometers

    Example \(\PageIndex{2}\)

    How many millimeters are in 5 meters? The question involves going from a larger value (meters) to a smaller value (millimeters). Move 3 decimal places to the right (multiply).

    Solution

    5.0 meters = 5000 millimeters = 5 X 103 millimeters

    Example \(\PageIndex{3}\)

    How many liters are in 80 nanoliters? The question involves converting a small value (nanoliters) to a larger value (liters). Move the decimal to the left 9 places

    Solution

    80. nanoliters = .00000008 liters = 8 X 10-8 liters