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ERIC Number: EJ1160673
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017-Nov
Pages: 2
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0031-921X
The SI-Gap: How British Units Are Impeding Advances in STEM
Jones, M. P.; Cook, Courtney J.
Physics Teacher, v55 n8 p496-497 Nov 2017
The United States is one of only three countries in the world that remain uncommitted to the metric system. Perhaps to policymakers the decision to hang on to miles, pounds, and gallons is one of tradition. However, as a physics teacher I have seen firsthand how growing up with U.S. Customary Units (commonly called by the pseudonym "British Units") has negatively impacted my students. Sure, they can convert between "British" and SI units; and they can effectively toggle between SI prefixes. However, they typically lack intuition regarding the values they express in SI. This is a major problem, but is by no means a criticism against them. Their disadvantage is the result of a unique learning gap that exists in the United States. I call it the SI(si)-gap. The SI-gap not only impedes our ability as teachers to inspire students when it comes to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); it also prevents our students from properly assessing the validity of their own results. As we shall soon see, the SI-gap carries consequences beyond the classroom. If we are to solve the problems that relate to the SI-gap, we need to reform the way we introduce SI units to the current generation of students.
American Association of Physics Teachers. One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740. Tel: 301-209-3300; Fax: 301-209-0845; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A