Today’s Telegraph readers are in a huff: over plans for a new school curriculum, which would require British students to learn imperial units in math class.

In the mid-1970s, British moved from the imperial system (think: yards, nautical miles, acres and stones) to the metric system (centimeters, meters, square meters and grams). Almost every country has adopted the metric system–with the exception of a few holdouts, like the US, Liberia and Myanmar.


Telegraph reported this week:

Imperial measurements ‘to make comeback’ in schools

Imperial measurements are to make a return to the classroom amid fears that children are failing to learn about pints, pounds and miles, it has emerged.

Today, the broadsheet printed some reader reactions. Here’s my favourite:

SIR – I was dismayed to read that the Government is planning to require schools to place imperial units at the heart of maths lessons (report, January 9). I have taught the subject for more than 25 years and am horrified that I should be expected to explain such an awkward, illogical and antiquated system of measurement.

Perhaps it would satisfy all concerned if the imperial system was covered in history lessons and the metric system was dealt with in mathematics and science lessons.

Roger Trowbridge
Calne, Wiltshire

The Imperial Unit system was codified in The British Weights and Measures Act (1824). But imperial units fell out of favour in the 20th century. The metric system is now the official British standard. In 1995, the Units of Measurement Regulation Act required that retail items use metric quantities.

The measurement system in the United States is based on the old British model. Recall that American doctors still use the imperial ‘pounds/feet’ for weight/height–as opposed to the metric ‘kilos/centimers.’

Here’s a decent chart of imperial/metric equivalencies.