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content provider: the Nuffield Curriculum Centre
written by the Nuffield Curriculum Centre
This is a set of nine experiments that introduce students to the concept of density and provide practice in measuring it. Many students have difficulty understanding density as a quantity derived from mass and volume. Learners often enter college with deeply-entrenched misconceptions, such as the erroneous idea that gases have no mass. These classroom labs were developed to promote correct ideas of density, and to demonstrate differing techniques for measuring density in solids, liquids, and gases.

Specific topics include: density of regular solid shapes, measuring density and weight of liquids, measuring the average density of a student, weighing a sample of air, and more.

This item is part of a much larger collection of physics/astronomy experiments, sponsored by the UK's Institute of Physics and funded by the Nuffield Curriculum Centre.  
SEE RELATED ITEMS BELOW for a link to the full collection.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education Practices
- Active Learning
= Cooperative Learning
Fluid Mechanics
- Statics of Fluids
= Density and Buoyancy
General Physics
- Properties of Matter
- Middle School
- High School
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Laboratory
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- Laboratory
- New teachers
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© 2006 The Nuffield Foundation
Additional information is available.
density experiments, density labs, derived quantities, hands-on, measurement, physical quantities, practical physics
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created February 9, 2011 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
August 22, 2016 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
June 9, 2010

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

1. The Nature of Science

1B. Scientific Inquiry
  • 6-8: 1B/M1b. Scientific investigations usually involve the collection of relevant data, the use of logical reasoning, and the application of imagination in devising hypotheses and explanations to make sense of the collected data.

4. The Physical Setting

4D. The Structure of Matter
  • 6-8: 4D/M2. Equal volumes of different materials usually have different masses.
  • 6-8: 4D/M3ab. Atoms and molecules are perpetually in motion. Increased temperature means greater average energy of motion, so most substances expand when heated.
  • 6-8: 4D/M8. Most substances can exist as a solid, liquid, or gas depending on temperature.
  • 6-8: 4D/M10. A substance has characteristic properties such as density, a boiling point, and solubility, all of which are independent of the amount of the substance and can be used to identify it.

12. Habits of Mind

12B. Computation and Estimation
  • 6-8: 12B/M3. Calculate the circumferences and areas of rectangles, triangles, and circles, and the volumes of rectangular solids.

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: Particles and Interactions and the Standard Model
Unit Title: Properties of Matter

Density is a derived quantity -- we measure two other quantities (mass and volume) and then calculate density. to help first-time learners understand this connection, we recommend this set of nine classroom labs. Students will measure and weigh solid blocks & liquids, and gain practice in using the graduated cylinder. They also weigh a sample of air and measure the average density of a student!

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AIP Format
Nuffield Curriculum Centre, (2006), WWW Document, (http://practicalphysics.org/measuring-density.html).
Nuffield Curriculum Centre, Practical Physics: Measuring Density, (2006), <http://practicalphysics.org/measuring-density.html>.
APA Format
Nuffield Curriculum Centre. (2010, June 9). Practical Physics: Measuring Density. Retrieved August 29, 2016, from http://practicalphysics.org/measuring-density.html
Chicago Format
Nuffield Curriculum Centre. Practical Physics: Measuring Density. June 9, 2010. http://practicalphysics.org/measuring-density.html (accessed 29 August 2016).
MLA Format
Nuffield Curriculum Centre. Practical Physics: Measuring Density. 2006. 9 June 2010. Nuffield Curriculum Centre. 29 Aug. 2016 <http://practicalphysics.org/measuring-density.html>.
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@misc{ Author = "Nuffield Curriculum Centre", Title = {Practical Physics: Measuring Density}, Volume = {2016}, Number = {29 August 2016}, Month = {June 9, 2010}, Year = {2006} }
Refer Export Format

%Q Nuffield Curriculum Centre
%T Practical Physics: Measuring Density
%D June 9, 2010
%U http://practicalphysics.org/measuring-density.html
%O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%A Nuffield Curriculum Centre,
%D June 9, 2010
%T Practical Physics: Measuring Density
%V 2016
%N 29 August 2016
%8 June 9, 2010
%9 text/html
%U http://practicalphysics.org/measuring-density.html

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Practical Physics: Measuring Density:

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