Density Cubes Activities

Instructor: Josh Corbat

Josh has taught Earth Science and Physical Science at the High School level and holds a Master of Education degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.

If you want to help your students learn about density, the activities described in this lesson are great ways to engage them meaningfully. Students will think creatively while participating in hands-on, minds-on inquiries.

Density Cubes: A Simple Way to Explore Density

The concepts of density, weight, and mass can often be confusing for students. This confusion is exacerbated when teachers have them explore the concepts by looking at and measuring irregular objects. This is simply because some irregular objects can be difficult to visualize and think about for students first learning these concepts. To help streamline learning, density cubes come in handy. Density cubes can be measured quickly and are much easier for students to visualize and work with. The activities below are designed to help students explore density in fun, engaging ways.

Check the Cube Company Activity

A great way to get students thinking about density is to have them measure density cubes and double check the density as reported by the manufacturer (even though we know it's pretty spot-on). Simply hand out a density cube to each student, have them measure the sides as accurately as possible to calculate volume, then get a mass measurement using a scale. Once they have those, it's a simple matter of dividing mass by volume. If a student finds that their cube is off, have another student verify their measurements and calculations. This is a great way to review the nature of science as well, as additional scientists are often brought in to clarify discrepancies.

Cube Displacement Activity

Although not all density cubes can be used in this activity (e.g. wooden ones), a fun way to show what density means for displacement (i.e. nothing) is to have students drop equally-sized cubes of different densities into graduated cylinders and record the change in volume. Volume, obviously, is the only thing being measured here, but students often have a hard time with this concept. Another way to approach this is to have density cubes of different sizes available so students can see that bigger cubes displace more water no matter their density (as long as they fully submerge).

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