MnSTEP Teaching Activity Collection > MnSTEP Activities > Investigating Density: Determined by using mass and volume of a substance.

Investigating Density: Determined by using mass and volume of a substance.

Heidi Luhman, Becker High School, Becker, MN. Based on original activity from Holt Science Spectrum, page. 57.
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In this Physical Science Activity, students investigate Density. Students will explore the history of density, its uses, and applications. Students will generate data, calculate, summarize, and apply data to a graph. They can use their graph to calculate density and compare density values.

Learning Goals

This activity on density is designed to provide 1-3 learning goals. Critical thinking, data analysis, synthesis of ideas, and model development are utilized in this activity. Other skills involved are observation, questioning, writing, graphing, equipment operation and specific field techniques.
Concepts include: Relationships between matter, atoms and elements; Distinguish between chemical and physical properties of matter; Preform calculations involving density; Evaluate materials and their properties for different uses.
Vocabulary involved: reactivity, density, chemical property, physical property, buoyancy.

Context for Use

This is an Inquiry Activity. It is part exploratory, laboratory and analysis of data. Activity takes 2 classes but can be extended. Works for most class sizes depending on equipment available. It is used in a 9th grade Physical Science class as exploration of one physical property of matter. Knowledge of matter, atoms, elements, and compounds is used. This is an activity that requires access to basic lab equipment (250 ml beaker, 100 ml graduated cylinder, and balance) and basic computer knowledge and Excel. This activity is in the beginning of the course. It is designed to challenge, with many parts, yet give the student a comfort level. This would be easy to adapt to time and size constraints.

Subject: Chemistry:General Chemistry:Properties of Matter
Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity, Classroom Activity
Grade Level: High School (9-12)

Description and Teaching Materials

Inquiry Activity of Density. Students start out exploring what type of physical property density is, the history of density, why it was used, how it was applied, how to calculate it, and how it is used in students' daily life. This is a one page word processed paper to begin this inquiry. Lab, graphing and analysis follow.

Density Inquiry Lab
The Relationship between Mass and Volume.
In composition book, make a data table with 3 columns and 12 rows. In the first row label the columns:
1. Volume of Water (ml)
2. Mass of Cylinder (g) and Water (g)
3. Mass of Water (g)
In the remaining spaces of the first column, write: 0, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 and 100. All of your data will be entered on this table.

Measure the mass of the empty graduated cylinder and record it in your data table.

Pour the amounts of water listed in the first column of your table from the beaker into the graduated cylinder. Use the balance to find the mass of the graduated cylinder with the water. Record each value in your data table.

Open Excel graphing program and use the data to make a graph. Label the horizontal x-axis, Mass of water (g). Mark the x-axis in 10 equal increments for 10-100g. Label the vertical y-axis, Volume of water (ml). Mark the y-axis in 10 equal increments for 10-100ml.
Apply these questions to the data you have created in your composition book.

1. Predict the mass of 55 ml of water and 100 ml of water.
2. Predict the volume of 25g of water and 75 g of water.
D = m/V
3. How could you use your data table to calculate the density of water?
4. How could you use your data graph to calculate the density of water?
5. Which method gives better results?
6. Why?
Tape graph in composition book.

Turn in History of Density exploratory paper, a copy of graph and the 6 questions above. (typed).
All notes, experiment, data, and drawings are recorded in Composition books. Composition books are graded twice a quarter.

Teaching Notes and Tips

Students should know the importance of the scientific notebook. This is why the composition book is used. Like working scientists all notes, experimental data, conclusions, side notes and thoughts are kept in the composition book. Composition books are checked on a bi-quarterly basis.


Students will be assessed on density exploratory paper, laboratory, calculations, computer skills, graphing, organization, and analysis and composition book. All learning goals are embedded in the assessments.


Physical Science IIA 6-9. Elements and compounds, sates, properties chemical and physical.

References and Resources