MnSCU Partnership > Teaching Activities > Metric System Conversions: Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) activity

Metric System Conversions: Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) activity

Jeffrey R. Pribyl
Department of Chemistry and Geology
Minnesota State University, Mankato
Mankato, MN 56001
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This page first made public: Feb 24, 2010


This is a Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) activity for learning metric conversions. Students are expected to work in group of four students to complete this activity. Students will learn how to do metric conversions and begin looking at the process skills necessary for working in groups. This is used as a first week activity in a college level introduction to chemistry course, but can also be used in high school chemistry or in a general chemistry course.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to convert within the metric system, begin looking at the importance of significant figures and will begin looking at the process skills necessary for working in groups. Note, I have already introduced the concept of significant figures in a previous class. Students should know that you record all certain and one uncertain digit. The concept of unit factors was briefly introduced in a previous class and the textbook does make use of this term.

Context for Use

This is a classroom activity that can be used in class with enrollments of 4 to over 200 students. This activity would work will in a middle school, high school, or college classroom. The author uses this activity with classes of 200 college students. This activity takes about 50 minutes.

Description and Teaching Materials

Have students form groups of four students. Each group receives ONE copy of the activity. (Refrain from giving groups more than one copy as they will want to divide the material and not work together.) You will need to assign roles for each student in the group. (See the file for group roles.) The groups begin work and the instructor begins wandering the classroom. As the instructor, refrain from giving students the answers. Guide them to look at the material and use each other. After about 7 minutes the instructor should ask several groups to report out on their answer to question 3. I recommend that you tell the class you will be expecting a report out in 7 minutes and maybe give them a two-minute warning to help the groups stay on track. I would ask groups to report out on question 9, 14 and 15. Make sure the reflector answers the last question.

This activity does not include any English to English or Metric to English conversions. For this course, I do not ask my students to perform these types of conversions.

Group Handout for Metric System Conversions POGIL (Microsoft Word 32kB Feb17 10)

Teaching Notes and Tips

This is a great first week activity to get groups to work together. No previous knowledge about the metric system is necessary.


I collect the groups work and review the answers. Since this is usually the first group activity I do in my class, I do not assign points, but I do write comments on the papers. I will also use the information on the sheets as a springboard for the next class period. I will discuss what groups did well on and where there were difficulties.

References and Resources