Teacher Notes

Equal Mass Kit

Student Laboratory Kit

Materials Included In Kit

Aluminum cylinder, 15 grams, ½" in diameter
Brass cylinder, 15 grams, ½" in diameter
Polyethylene cylinder, 15 grams, ½" in diameter
PVC cylinder, 15 grams, ½" in diameter
Nylon cylinder, 15 grams, ½" in diameter

Additional Materials Required

(for each lab group)
Water, 25 to 50 mL
Beaker (optional)
Dissection needle, piece of wire or toothpick
Graduated cylinder, plastic, 50- or 100-mL

Safety Precautions

Normal laboratory safety rules and procedures should be followed.


All materials may be saved for future use.

Teacher Tips

  • Enough materials are provided in this kit for one group of students. This laboratory activity can reasonably be completed in one 50-minute class period. Additional Equal Mass Kits, Flinn Catalog No. AP4636, may be purchased for each individual lab group.
  • For a more accurate volume reading, a dissection needle, piece of wire, or toothpick should be used to totally submerge the polyethylene cylinder.
  • As an extension to the given procedure, further demonstrate or explain buoyancy. Have each student group place one of the metal cylinders in a graduated cylinder of water to show that the metal cylinder is heavier than the upward force (buoyancy) exerted upon it from the water. Now have the students choose the longest cylinder and place it in a graduated cylinder of water. The floating plastic cylinder demonstrates that the upward force of the water is great enough to support the weight of the cylinder. It also shows that the displaced water actually weighs the same as the cylinder (it floats fully submerged). The total weight of the displaced water equals the weight of the cylinder.
  • If time allows, the calculated volumes of the cylinders (v = πr2h) may also be compared to the measured volumes.
  • You may also wish to compare the buoyancy of the cylinders using other liquids than water (e.g., salt water, vegetable oil, mineral oil).
  • If glass graduated cylinders or beakers are used, be careful adding the metal objects in order to avoid breaking the glass vessel.

Correlation to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Science & Engineering Practices

Using mathematics and computational thinking
Analyzing and interpreting data

Disciplinary Core Ideas

MS-PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter
HS-PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter

Crosscutting Concepts

Scale, proportion, and quantity
Structure and function

Performance Expectations

MS-PS1-4: Develop a model that predicts and describes changes in particle motion, temperature, and state of a pure substance when thermal energy is added or removed.
MS-PS1-1: Develop models to describe the atomic composition of simple molecules and extended structures.
HS-PS1-1: Use the periodic table as a model to predict the relative properties of elements based on the patterns of electrons in the outermost energy level of atoms.
HS-PS1-3: Plan and conduct an investigation to gather evidence to compare the structure of substances at the bulk scale to infer the strength of electrical forces between particles.
HS-PS2-6: Communicate scientific and technical information about why the molecular-level structure is important in the functioning of designed materials.

Sample Data


Answers to Questions

  1. Was the same amount of water displaced for each sample cylinder? Why?

    The amount of water displaced for each cylinder was different. The amount of water displaced is equal to the volume of the cylinder.

  2. If all of the sample cylinders were of equal volume, would the same amount of water be displaced for each sample?

    Yes, if each of the cylinders were of the same volume, the amount of water displaced would be equal.

  3. What was the relationship between the volume and density of the sample cylinders? (Remember, they all have the same mass.)

    It was an inverse relationship. As the volume of a cylinder increased, the density of the cylinder decreased.

  4. Did any of the sample cylinders float in the water? If so, why?

    The longest cylinder floated in the water. The density of this cylinder was less than the density of water.

Student Pages

Equal Mass Kit


What is the relationship between volume and density? Do objects of equal mass have the same density? Let’s experiment and find out.


  • Density
  • Specific gravity
  • Length
  • Mass


In this activity, the volume and density of five different cylinders of the same mass and diameter will be determined by water displacement. Using Equation 1, the volume of each cylinder may be determined.

If the mass and the volume of an object have been measured, then the density may be found using the following equation.
Density, which is defined as an object’s mass divided by its volume, is a characteristic property of a material. The density of a solid is commonly expressed as g/cm3. Remember that 1 mL = 1 cm3.

Specific gravity is a similar term to density. Specific gravity is a comparison of the density of a substance to the density of a reference substance (water for liquids). Since the density of pure water is approximately 1.00 g/cm3 at 20 degrees Celsius, the specific gravity of a substance is equivalent to the density. Specific gravity, however, is unitless.


Water, 2550 mL
Aluminum cylinder, 15 g, ½" in diameter
Brass cylinder, 15 g, ½" in diameter
Dissection needle
Graduated cylinder, plastic, 50- or 100-mL
Nylon cylinder, 15 g, ½" in diameter
Polyethylene cylinder, 15 g, ½" in diameter
PVC cylinder, 15 g, ½" in diameter

Safety Precautions

Although these materials are considered nonhazardous, please follow proper laboratory safety guidelines.


  1. Obtain a sample cylinder. Measure its length (in cm) and record its color in the data table.
  2. Fill a 50- or 100-mL graduated cylinder about half way with water. Record the initial volume of water (in mL) in the data table.
  3. Carefully place the sample cylinder into the graduated cylinder. It works best to tip the graduated cylinder and slide the sample cylinder down the side.
  4. Record the new volume of water in the graduated cylinder in data table. This is the volume of the sample cylinder and the water. If the sample cylinder is not totally submerged in the water, use a dissection needle (or similar tool) to gently push the cylinder into the water. Record the volume.
  5. Does the sample cylinder float or sink in the water? Record your observation in the data table.
  6. Calculate the volume of the sample cylinder using Equation 1 (see the Background section).
  7. Record the volume of the sample cylinder in the data table.
  8. Calculate the density of the sample cylinder using Equation 2. Remember that each sample cylinder weighs 15 g. Record the density of the sample cylinder in the data table.
  9. Repeat steps 1–8 for the remaining four sample cylinders. Record all information in the data table.


Student Worksheet PDF


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