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Significant Figures and Lab Data (54 Favorites)
LAB in Density, Accuracy, Measurements, Significant Figures, Accuracy, Error Analysis, Error Analysis. Last updated November 4, 2019.
Summary
In this lesson, students will use laboratory equipment of different precision to collect data for several different metals, and then use the data to calculate the density of each. They will then compare their calculated densities to accepted values and determine the combination of equipment that leads to the most accurate calculation of density.
Grade Level
Middle or high school
Objectives
By the end of this lab, students should be able to
 report lab data correctly based on the precision of the equipment used
 calculate density from data and report it with the correct significant figures
Chemistry Topics
This lab supports students’ understanding of
 significant figures
 density
 measurement
 accuracy
 precision
Time
Teacher Preparation: 45 minutes
Lesson: 45 – 60 minutes
Materials
 Lead Shot, 30 g per lab group (can be reused when dry)
 Large Lead Ball, hooked and tied to a piece of string
 Aluminum Shot, 10 g per lab group (can be reused when dry)
 Aluminum Density Block
 Copper Shot, 25 g per lab group (can be reused when dry)
 Copper Strip (1.2 cm x 15 cm)
 10 mL Graduated Cylinder, 2, marked at 0.1 mL
 25 mL Graduated Cylinder, marked at 1 mL
 50 mL Graduated Cylinder, marked at 1 mL
 1000mL Beaker, plastic suggested, marked at 100 mL
 Electronic Balance, 1 g, 2
 Electronic Balance, 0.01 g, 3
 Electronic Balance, 0.001g, 1
 Ruler with centimeter with millimeter markings, 2
 Weighing Boats, 3
 Thermostat, °F
 Electric Temperature Probe, 0.1°C
 Thermometer, 1° C markings
 Forceps
Safety
 Always wear safety goggles when handling chemicals in the lab.
 Students should wash their hands thoroughly before leaving the lab.
 When students complete the lab, instruct them how to clean up their materials and dispose of any chemicals.
 Follow the teacher’s instructions for cleanup of materials and disposal of chemicals.
Teacher Notes
This lab is set up in seven stations:
Station  Equipment  Notes on Data Precision 
1  lead shot (30 grams per lab group), weighing boat, electronic balance that reports to the 0.01 g, 10 mL beaker marked at 0.1 mL, water, paper towels  Mass reported to 0.01 g
Volume reported to 0.01 mL 
2 
large lead ball (hooked with string attached), electronic balance that reports to the 1 g, 1000 mL plastic beaker marked at 100 mL, water, paper towels 
Mass reported to 1 g Volume reported to 10 mL 
3 
aluminum shot (10 grams per lab group), weighing boat, electronic balance that reports to the 0.01 g, 25 mL graduated cylinder marked at 1 g, water, paper towels 
Mass reported to 0.01 g Volume reported to 0.1 mL 
4 
aluminum density block, electronic balance that reports to the 1 g, metric ruler marked to the millimeter 
Mass reported to 1 g Length reported to 0.01 cm 
5 
copper shot (25 grams per lab group), weighing boat, electronic balance that reports to the 0.001 g, 10 mL beaker marked at 0.1 g, water, paper towels 
Mass reported to 0.001 g Volume reported to 0.01 mL 
6 
copper strip, electronic balance that reports to the 0.01 g, 50 mL graduated cylinder marked at 1 g, water, forceps, paper towels 
Mass reported to 0.01 g Volume reported to 0.1 mL 
7 
classroom thermostat (°F), electronic temperature probe the reports to the 0.1°C, thermometer that reports to the 1°C 
Precision will vary depending upon your equipment 
 If you have small strainers students can use them to drain the metal shot from water.
 Students should have already learned about using the Significant Figure rules.
 Students should also know how to calculate density and percent error.
 Discuss the importance of reading the meniscus at eye level when collecting liquid volume data.
 Before beginning the lab you should discuss how to use the equipment markings to report lab data.
 Equipment with marking intervals of 100: Readings can be estimated to the tens (10) place.
 Equipment with marking intervals of 10: Readings can be estimated to the ones (1) place.
 Equipment with marking intervals of 1: Readings can be estimated to the tenths (0.1) place.
 Equipment with marking intervals of 0.1: Readings can be estimated to the hundredths (0.01) place.
 For electronic equipment: The last digit is the estimated unit.
For the Student
Lesson
The purpose of this activity is to collect lab measurements that will
allow you to calculate the density of three different metals. Calculated
density values will then be compared to accepted values to find the
percent error.Accepted density of each is shown in the table on the
right.All lab measurements should be recorded to reflect the precision
of the equipment used.
Metal 
Density 
Aluminum 
2.70 g/cm^{3} 
Copper 
8.92 g/ cm^{3} 
Lead 
11.34 g/ cm^{3} 
Directions and Data: Visit each station and collect the data needed to calculate the density of the metal.Record your data using the correct number of significant figures:
 Equipment with marking intervals of 100: Readings can be estimated to the tens (10) place.
 Equipment with marking intervals of 10: Readings can be estimated to the ones (1) place.
 Equipment with marking intervals of 1: Readings can be estimated to the tenths (0.1) place.
 Equipment with marking intervals of 0.1: Readings can be estimated to the hundredths (0.01) place.
 For electronic equipment: The last digit is the estimated unit.
Record your data with the correct number of significant figures.Check markings on your equipment and determine how to record the data before you begin.
When recording liquid volume data, be sure that you are reading the meniscus at eye level.
Basic Rules for Significant Figures 

All the numbers that are not zeroes are significant: 

Zeroes between nonzero numbers are significant: 

Leading Zeroes are not significant.They are place holders: 

Ending Zeroes after a decimal point are significant. 

Ending Zeroes without a decimal are not significant, they are place holders. 

Data Table
Lead Shot: Add ≈30 grams of lead shot to weighing boat.Use water displacement to measure volume. 
Initial Mass (g) 
Initial Volume (mL) 
Final Mass (g) 
Final Volume (mL) 

Pour water into sink and place wet lead on a paper towel to dry. 

Lead Ball: Use water displacement to measure volume. 
Mass (g) 
Initial Volume (mL) 
Final Volume (mL) 

Remove lead from water.Dry with paper towel.Leave water in beaker. 

Aluminum Shot: Add ≈10 grams of aluminum shot weighing boat.Use water displacement to measure volume. 
Initial Mass (g) 
Initial Volume (mL) 
Final Mass (g) 
Final Volume (mL) 

Pour water into sink and place wet aluminum on a paper towel to dry. 

Aluminum Block: Measure all three sides of the block using the metric ruler 
Mass (g) 
Side 2 (cm) 
Side 1 (cm) 
Side 3 (cm) 

Be sure to leave the station the same way you found it. 

Copper Shot: Add ≈25 grams of copper shot to weighing boat.Use water displacement to measure volume. 
Initial Volume (mL) 
Initial Mass (g) 
Final Volume (mL) 
Final Mass (g) 

Pour water into beaker. Place wet copper on paper towel to dry. 

Copper Strip: Record length and width of copper strip using the metric ruler. Use water displacement to measure volume. 
Mass Copper (g) 
Initial Volume (mL) 
Length (cm) 
Final Volume (mL) 

Width (cm) 

Use forceps remove strip. Dry with paper towel.Leave water in GC. 

Temperature: Record room temperature using the thermostat, temperature probe, and thermometer. 
Thermostat (°F) 
Thermometer (°C) 
Temperature Probe (°C) 
Density Calculations: Calculate the mass, volume, and density of each substance. Show your work. Apply Significant Figure Rules to your calculations.

Mass (g) 
Volume (cm^{3}) 
Density (g/cm^{3}) 
Lead Shot 

Lead Ball 

Al Shot 

Al Block 

Copper Shot 

Copper Strip 
Temperature Conversions:
Thermostat: Convert to °C and K 
Temperature Probe: Convert to °F and K 
Thermometer: Convert to °F and K 
More Questions: Show all work. Apply Significant Figure Rules to calculations.
Calculate the average temperature of the room using your three Kelvin values. 

Calculate the Percent Error value using the accepted values from page 1. 10 x  Accepted – Actual  Accepted 
Lead Shot 
Aluminum Shot 

Copper Strip 

Use the length, width, and volume of the copper strip to calculate the thickness in MILLIMETERS. 

Which station allowed you to calculate a more precise value for density?Explain why. 

Which station allowed you to calculate the least precise value for density?Explain why. 