“Welcome to hell,” was how one student verbally underlined the announcement of the topic today. A wee bit dramatic I thought, but the sentiment was clear. Students think metric units and prefixes are a tedious bother. Of course, that is a potential rationale for anything: “I do not see the point so I don’t want to spend the time.”
Indeed, seeing the point is fantastically important! Last night one of my kids finished their homework and then went online to gather legal documents relating to rights of minors because she is concerned about the situation of a friend of hers. Personally I have not read anything so dry as legalese, but here she was, buried in the prose parsing it for meaning and finding it exciting! I was very glad to see her enthralled by something simply because it interested her; we all need our pet topics and projects. We all have interests that keep us engaged just because, to us, it seems so cool and interesting!
Well, metric prefixes and SI units are not that enthralling so one problem is to make it sensible as well as making it as visual as possible. Here is where I love TOP Science, which I have mentioned before. Ron, the author, doe a great job of giving kids a visual indicator: going up gets larger units; going down gets smaller units; each row on the page is x10 (upward) or /10 (downward.) Elegant; visual; memorable; that is why I love TOP science.