A Massive Or Weighty Problem

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Updated on Feb 08, 2012

Grade Level: 5th; Type: Physical Science/Physics

To determine whether mass and weight are the same or different?

  • What is mass?
  • What is weight?
  • How is mass measured?
  • How is weight measured?
  • How mass and weight are related or are they?
  • How do we define the word force?
  • Would you weigh the same on the moon as you do on the earth?
  • How do we use a balance?

In this project the student will become acquainted with basic information enabling him or her to differentiate between mass and weight. While weight and mass are related, they are not the same properties. Mass is a measure of how much matter an object contains. Weight, on the other hand is the measure of the force of gravity on an object. Mass is a property that an object has and does not depend on its location. The mass of an object or person is constant. Were we to take an object to the moon, its weight will depend on the force of gravity on the moon and therefore it would weigh less than it would on the earth, specifically I/6 the of its weight on planet Earth.The more mass two objects have, the greater the force of gravity the masses exert on each other. In short, greater mass results in greater force. To sum up, gravity is the force that objects exert on each other because of their masses.

This science fair experiment also serves to acquaint students with the essential processes of sciencing such as the importance of the use of a control, of identifying dependent and independent variables, of data collection, of pictorial and or graphic presentation of data and of being able to make better judgments as to the validity and reliability of their findings.They take on the role of scientists and in the process they learn to act as one.

  • Bag of popcorn
  • Banana
  • Stone
  • Stapler
  • Scissors
  • Magic marker
  • Sponge
  • Balloon filled with air
  • Balance

  1. Gather all the materials you will need for this project which include a bag of pop corn, a banana, a stone, a stapler, a pair of scissors, a magic marker, a sponge, aballoon filled with air, a dollar bill and a quarter. and a balance borrowed from the school`s science closet .You may wish to include a camera and take photos of the procedure and the results to use in your display as well as in your final report.
  2. Copy the data charts provided below, making two copies of each.
  3. Select a partner who without seeing your results, will work after you have completed steps 4 through 7and repeat those steps and record his or her data on separate charts.
  4. Now you will start by selecting each of the sample objects, using just your sense of holding each one, take a guess and estimate each ones weight by arranging them in order of the heaviest first and on to the last one being the lightest.
  5. Record your sequence or you may want to number them, number 10 being the heaviest and so on.
  6. Now let`s be scientific. Use the balance and weigh each one and record the weights on your data chart.
  7. Check your results! How well did you estimate the weight of each of the objects?Did any of the objects used have the same weight? Where did you miscalculate?Was size a key factor in tricking you? What did you consider when you were estimating the weight?
  8. Now dismantle what you have done and let your partner go through steps 4 through 7.
  9. Compare your results with those of your partner. Did you both make the same errors? On what basis did you both go right, go wrong?
  10. Review the data. What do you conclude? Write up the project. Include all of the data and the research you conducted as well as the bibliography.

See Data Charts Below.

Data Charts on Estimated Sequences: From Heaviest to Lightest

My Sequence
My Partner`s Sequence

Data Charts on Actual Measurements Using the Balance:


Actual Weights
bag of pop corn
magic marker
filled balloon
dollar bill

Terms/Concepts: mass; weight; gravity; force; property; constant


  • DiSpezio M, Coone, T, Science, ScottForesman, Pearson Publishing 2003

Dr. Muriel Gerhard (Ed.D.) is a retired educator with fifty seven years of experience in all aspects of public education. She has been a teacher, principal, administrator, college professor, researcher, grants writer, change agent and science editor. She is the author of several books on education used as college texts. These include the best selling Effective Teaching Strategies with the Behavioral Outcomes Approach and The Behavioral Outcomes Handbook for Teachers and Administrators. Presently she is a consultant in science education and curriculum development, a marriage and family therapist, a newspaper columnist and an author. Her latest book, recently published, is a memoir of sixty vignettes entitled âNow That I`m Dead, I Decided to Write this Bookâ.

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