For this activity, I used the set of density blocks from Flinn Scientific. Each group of students had 6 blocks made of the same material. Their challenge was to identify the material using their measurement skills to calculate the mass, volume, and density of each block. This activity also reinforced the concept that the density of an object is constant.
I use these blocks as part of a density lesson as well
Prior to this set, I used blocks of scrap wood that were cut in the wood shop, but any rectangular shape works well such as chalk boxes, expo boxes, staple boxes, tissue boxes, playing cards box, dice, etc…
Prior to having the students record the measurements for the blocks, we go over the importance of how to orient the blocks before measuring. A problem that students often run into is that they end up measuring one of the sides two times, and not measuring all three of the sides. Even though the right-hand rule is not used for volume, it helps to find the L, W, & H of each block.
In the image below, Z = Length, Y= Width, and X = Height. Mathematically, it doesn’t matter which side is designated as the width, height, or length since all three sides are multiplied, but this will help students measure all three sides properly. Students should place the block in their hand and align their fingers with the three sides of the block. Once they have decided on how to orientate the block, they can record their measurements.
For this lab, you can have several stations set up around the room with 1-3 blocks at each station. I assign each block a number and using a black sharpie, write it right on to the block itself. Not all blocks have to be measured, once each student has measured 10-15 blocks, they can go back to their seats and compare their measurements with a partner. We go over the answers together as a class once everyone is done.
This is one of my favorite foldables. The notes for the metric system are a basic introduction with a series of short class activities.
Brainstorming – with their lab group, students brainstorm all the different units we use to measure things, and classify each as length, volume, and mass. We then share and discuss our answers.
Estimation – students estimate the sizes of common objects in a classroom using their hands and feet as rulers. They use a ruler to measure their hand span, fingernail width, etc. Once they have those measurements (and I take the rulers away), they estimate the sizes of different items in the classroom. After each group has made their estimations, we find the actual measurements and see how we did. Which group had the best estimations?
Prefixes & Base Words – I introduce the base units for mass, volume and length: gram, Liter, and meter. We discuss the prefixes that can be added to the base units: kilo, centi, and milli. (I don’t really go into deci, deca, or hecto because they are not as commonly used.) Then I explain how you can mix and match the prefixes with the base units and the kids list all the combinations that are possible and we go over what each one means. We also practice writing and using the abbreviations. For example centi + meter = centimeter (cm) and its used to measure distance (length).
Metric System Notes (pdf): It is best printed out on legal size paper, but in your printer settings, you can scale it down to 8 1/2 x 11.