How well do you know your SI units? Low-tech ‘gamification’ of SI unit revision with this clever deck of playing cards.

The International System of Units (abbreviated to SI from the French Système International d’Unités) is the modern form of the metric system and is  a system of units of measurement devised around seven base units and the base 10 mathematics. It is the world’s most widely used system of measurement, both in everyday commerce and in science, technology, Engineering and Maths.

The system has been nearly globally adopted. Three principal exceptions are Burma (Myanmar), Liberia, and the United States. The United Kingdom has officially adopted the International System of Units but not with the intention of replacing customary measures entirely.

The Autonomous Systems Lab, based at Southampton University, UK have devised a clever way of helping anyone studying Engineering or the Physical Sciences learn and revise the SI units by incorporating 52 of the most common units into a deck of standard playing cards (yes, that’s right, there are more than 52 SI units!). The back of each card has the name of a measure, for example ‘Force’. The face has the unit, eg ‘Newton [N]’.

 The cards can be used in several ways, as standard ‘flash cards’ to flick through and test knowledge, converting measure to unit, or vice versa. Alternatively, the learning process can be ‘gamified’ by using them to play any single-deck card game. The players form mental connections between the card faces and the units they represent, learning while playing. Critics of the product have suggested that having the measure written on the back of each card means people can cheat at games by learning the face relating to the measure. However, if a student is capable of making that cognitive connection, they’re half-way to learning the unit!

The two additional Joker cards from the standard deck contain ‘plus’ and ‘equals’ signs, allowing simple formulae to be arranged using the cards (multiplication can be achieved by placing cards directly next to each other, division by placing them on top of each other, minus needs some imagination… one of the unused cards on its side?). The jokers also contain tables of useful constants, quantities and formulae.

So who should buy this product? The simple answer is anyone studying or working in any field that requires the use of SI units. If this describes you, you might want to have a go at this free online test from Sporcle.

A score of less than 80% indicates that you could do with brushing up on the basics of the SI Unit System and perhaps you should invest in a training aid such as this. Also remember that this online test only covers the basic 29 units whereas our revision tool covers the most important 52 units as well as much more information on equations, constants, prefixes and much more!

The cards are available now and can be bought from Amazon, priced at £6.99 plus p+p.

Very pleased with the product – my A2 Physics students are learning all sorts of new cards games as well as the units!

–  Richard Ian Grose, Amazon Customer

This revision tool covers all topics within STEM in a very easy to use way, being the perfect choice for a undergraduate student in any of the physical sciences, and also for a reference work to be used throughout an entire mechanical engineer’s professional life.

The students, who usually dread the experience of studying SI Units, will be surprised, as well as many teachers, to discover how simple this amazing – and essential – subject is.

-Sue, Amazon Customer


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