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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Mathematic Calculations and Applications for the Histology Laboratory. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Conversion Within the Metric System

Prefixes in the metric system are all related by a power of 10. This means that each successive prefix is 10 times larger than the previous one. This makes converting one metric measurement to another a straightforward process and is often as simple as moving a decimal point.

Example:
  • 1 milliliter (mL) = 0.001 liter (L) = 1/1,000th of a liter (L)
  • 10 milliliters (mL) = 0.01 liters (L) = 1 centiliter (cL) = 1/100th of a liter (L)
  • 10 centiliters (cL) equals 0.1 liter (L) or 1 deciliter (dL) = 1/10th of a liter (L)
  • 10 deciliters (dL) equals 1 liter (L)
NOTE: It is always important to consider the direction of the conversion in placement of that decimal point. If you are converting a smaller unit to a larger unit, then the decimal point has to move to the left (making your number smaller). If you are converting a larger unit to a smaller unit, then the decimal point has to move to the right (making your number larger).
A simple ratio and proportion calculation is all that is needed to perform conversions among different measurements within the metric system.