I made ScienceFix.com to share my favorite demos that I do in my middle school science classes.  

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  • Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Moon
    Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Moon
    by Sara Howard
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    NOVA - Origins
    starring Neil Degrasse Tyson
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    Human Body: Pushing the Limits
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Entries in mass (2)


Teachers Being Students: "What is Mass?"

Four brave non science teachers at my school were asked the question, "What is mass?"  The teachers struggled to answer the question. Students learn science concepts best by confronting what they know about a concept, usually a misconception, and then trying to fit new and often conflicting information with that knowledge. Students often view this as confusing, but studies have shown that they learn a science concept better (see Veritasium's talk on effective education movies). The purpose of this video is to show my students that teachers/adults go through the exact same process.

Does Mass Affect the Sinking/Floating of Objects?

Students have a major misconception that mass determines whether an object floats or sinks. This is an activity that forces students to deal with that misconception and hopefully break it. The following materials are needed:

  1. large pumice stone
  2. Density Sphere Experiment Kit
  3. large fish tank of water 

Have the students read the statement, "Objects that are high in mass, sink in water." Have the students show in some way if they agree with the statement, disagree with the statement, or are somewhat in between. Have them explain why they think that way and give examples. Then present the students with the list of all of the items to be placed into the tank, arranged according to their masses. Do not show the objects to the students. Have them write a hypothesis for each item (on whether they will sink or float) based only the property of mass. Then drop each item one by one, in order of their masses, into the water. Have students record the results. The students will realize that mass has nothing to do with whether an object sinks or floats. Then show the students the objects' densities. Hopefully they see the pattern of those objects with densities less than one float, and those with densities greater than one sink. It is not important to explain what density is at that point, but just that it is a property of matter that is vital in determining if an object floats or sinks.