How To Read A Ruler

Understanding how to read a ruler is a skill that is under appreciated. We are taught at an early age how to make measurements, but believe it or not, it is easy to forget the basics. Make sure you know how to read a ruler properly by following these tips:

  1. Choose an appropriate ruler. There are rulers that are specifically used to measure millimeters, centimeters, inches, meters and yards. It is important to use the right ruler to get the most accurate measurement. For example, if you are measuring a person's height, you should not use a ruler for inches. Note: You can avoid pesky conversions by starting off with the right measuring tool.
  2. Note where the measured units start on the ruler. A common mistake is automatically measuring an object at the beginning of the ruler. This method is incorrect. You should always start the measurement at the first measured mark. Caution: If you do not start the measurement properly, your records will be skewed.
  3. Record the measurement on the mark where the length of the object ends.  You should include whole and partial numbers. For example, do not record the measurement at one inch if it is actually one and one eighth inches.  However, in most cases, the length of the object will not stop on one of the designated marks. If this occurs, try to be as specific as possible. For example, if the measurement ends next to the two centimeter mark, record the measurement as 1.98 centimeters. Do not record it as the full measurement. Important: Be consistent with how you decide to record imperfect measurements. Choose a method that works and use it with every measurement.
  4. Check your measurements. Despite how careful you may be, it is still easy to record an inaccurate measurement. Quickly measure the object again. If you notice any discrepancies during the second measurement, it could be a clue that something was recorded or measured incorrectly the first time. Precision and accuracy are more important than speed.
  5. Practice how to read rulers properly. Like any skill, it takes time and practice to learn how to do it correctly. Practice by measuring an object using different rulers. Convert your measurements to check that each one was done correctly.
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