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ACTIVITY in Dimensional Analysis, Measurements, Scientific Notation, Significant Figures. Last updated January 29, 2024.


In this activity, students will use data from the NASA Science Solar System Exploration website to practice dimensional analysis calculations. This resource was created for National Chemistry Week (NCW) 2018 theme, Chemistry is Out of This World, which focuses on the chemistry of and in outer space.

Grade Level

High School

NGSS Alignment

This activity will help prepare your students to meet the performance expectations in the following standards:

  • HS-PS1-7: Use mathematical representations to support the claim that atoms, and therefore mass, are conserved during a chemical reaction.
  • HS-PS2-2: Use mathematical representations to support the claim that the total momentum of a system of objects is conserved when there is no net force on the system.
  • HS-PS2-4: Use mathematical representations of Newton’s Law of Gravitation and Coulomb’s Law to describe and predict the gravitational and electrostatic forces between objects.
  • HS-PS4-1: Use mathematical representations to support a claim regarding relationships among the frequency, wavelength, and speed of waves traveling in various media.
  • Scientific and Engineering Practices:
    • Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking


By the end of this activity, students should be able to

  • Use dimensional analysis for mass, length, volume, temperature, and density unit conversion problems.
  • Complete accurate conversions between different temperature units.
  • Record calculated answers with correct significant digits.
  • Report values using scientific notation when necessary.

Chemistry Topics

This activity supports students’ understanding of

  • Quantitative Chemistry
  • Unit Conversion
  • Dimensional Analysis
  • Measurement
  • Scientific Notation
  • Significant Digits


Teacher Preparation: 5 minutes

Lesson: 45 – 60 minutes


  • Student Activity Handout
  • Standard Conversion Factors Handout
  • Calculator


  • No specific safety precautions need to be observed for this activity.

Teacher Notes

  • An Excel spreadsheet with additional planetary data is available in the sidebar as a download.
  • Show your students The Temperature Guys video from the Founders of Chemistry video series on the AACT website, before starting the unit conversion lesson. This will help to begin a discussion about why units are important.
  • If you have not yet introduced the concept of dimensional analysis to your students, use the supplied PowerPoint presentation to guide your student through a few examples of unit conversion problems.
    • If you use the presentation the lesson opener asks, “When does 0.5 – 60 = 11?”The answer – it all depends on units. A half (0.5) day is 12 hours. Subtract one hour (60 minutes) and you get 11 hours.
    • Have 100 pennies, 10 dimes, 4 quarters, and 1 dollar bill ready for the second slide.Ask students what the four have in common (same amount of money) and how they differ (each has a different monetary value and you need different amounts of each to have a dollar).
    • Have a meter stick that also has inch markings. Talk about the metric markings and how they are related. Then compare the inch markings to the centimeters markings.
  • You may want to follow this lesson with the Unit Conversion Online Tutorial activity.
  • Additional Information and resource for the 2018 National Chemistry Week can be found here.

For the Student



In this activity you will use data from the NASA Science Solar System Exploration website to practice dimensional analysis calculations. This activity was created for National Chemistry Week 2018 which focuses on the chemistry of outer space. To look up more fun facts about the planets, visit the website: https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/overview/


Use dimensional analysis and the supplied standard conversion factor charts to solve the following unit conversion problems. Use the correct number of significant figures in your final answer. If the answer is greater than 10,000, use scientific notation.

  1. The Earth’s moon has a radius at the equator of 1,738 kilometers. What is that distance in meters?
    1. Convert the meters to miles.
  2. The length of the Martian year is 1.88 Earth years. What is that time in hours?
  3. The moon travels orbits around the Earth at a velocity of 3680. kilometers per hour. Convert that to miles per hour.
  4. The surface of Venus has an average temperature of 462°C. Convert the temperature to Kelvin and Fahrenheit.
  5. Jupiter has a mass of 1.898 x 1027 kg. Convert the mass to grams and then pounds.
  6. A Toyota Prius is 178.7 inches long. How many would you need to circle Mars’ equator, which is 13,233 mile long?
  7. The Earth’s density of 5.513 g/cm3 is very close to that of Radium. Given that the volume of the earth is 1.083 x 1027 cm3, what is its mass in kilograms?
  8. On Mercury, the average high temperature is 801°F and the average minimum temperature is -279°F. Convert both temperatures to Celsius and Kelvin.
  9. Uranus is located 1,804,300,000 miles from the sun. What is that distance in kilometers?
  10. Saturn orbits the sun at a speed of 21,560 miles per hour. Convert the speed to feet per second.
  11. Neptune has the same density as the element Rubidium, 1.63 g/cm3. Given that the mass of Neptune is 8.681 x 1025 kg, what is its volume?