Mass of the Earth

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In this activity, learners use basic measurements of the Earth and pieces of rock and iron to estimate the mass of the Earth. Learners will calculate mass, volume, and density, convert units, and employ the water displacement method. To calculate an even more accurate estimate of the mass of the Earth, this resource includes optional instructions on how to measure the iron core mass.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
free per student

Age Range:
Ages 14 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per student)

  • A piece of rock (a chunk of basalt)
  • A hammer
  • Graduated cylinder
  • Balance or digital scale that can read to the 1/10 of gram
  • Source of geophysical facts to check your answers
  • A diagram of the interior of the earth (optional)
  • Pieces of iron (or steel nuts and bolts) (optional)
  • Water


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Rocks and Minerals
  • Mathematics
    • Algebra
      • Equations and Inequalities
      • Variables and Expressions
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
    • Measurement
      • Units of Measurement
      • Size and Scale
      • Circles
    • Number and Operations
      • Exponents
      • Fractions
      • Multiples and Factors
      • Operations
  • Physical Sciences
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Mass and Weight
      • Volume and Density
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Muller, Eric


  • All rights reserved, Exploratorium, 2010