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Measuring Mass

Name of Corresponding Unit Plan: Archaeological Documentation

Grade Level: 5-8

Common Core Standards:
RS9-10. 3. Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks, attending to special cases or exceptions defined in the text.

Content Areas: Math, Science

Recommended Length/Duration: 45-60 minute period

Learning Goals: Students will understand the difference between mass and weight and learn to measure the mass of objects in different environments.


  1. Discuss the definition of mass:  an object’s resistance to inertia.  Point out that in everyday usage, mass is often thought of as weight.  However, the weight of an object is the gravitational pull exerted on it and varies depending upon the environment (e.g. weight on Earth versus on the Moon).  Weight can also be affected by altitude and buoyancy in water.  The mass of an object doesn’t change;  the weight of an object is dependent upon its environment.
  2. Discuss units for the measurement of mass: kilogram, pound, ton, etc.
  3. Discuss different tools for measuring mass: balance, spring scales, electronic scale.
  4. Have students measure the mass of various objects and record their results on their worksheets.
  5. Have students use a spring scale to measure the weight of the same objects in a tank of water.  If an object floats, record the weight as 0.  Buoyancy will be elaborated on in another lesson.
  6. When students have had a chance to measure each of the objects dry and in water, compare results and clarify any disagreements or questions.
  7. Point out that the mass of each object did not change.  However, by placing them in water the measurable weight was affected by the object’s buoyancy.

Assessments: Check worksheets for accuracy.

Materials/Resources: Measuring the Mass of Objects Worksheets (pdf), Spring Scales, Collection of various objects that can be hung on a spring scale

Special Considerations: Scientific measurements are generally easier to take and calculate in metric than in English units.  Additional work may be needed if students are not familiar with metric measurements, or if the teacher chooses to use English units.

Extensions: Students might want to learn more about the difference between mass and weight.

Student may want to find out how much an object would weigh on different planets.

Students may want to learn more about the effects of living in a weightless environment.