a pile of pennies

Mass of a Penny Lab

A hands on activity for students who are blind and visually impaired to measure mass using pennies.

Background related to mass measurement:

As students learn about mass measurement, they will first learn the use of the simple balance in elementary school.  The triple beam balance is usually introduced in middle school or high school.  This tool allows for accurate measurement of mass to 1/10th of a gram.  Visually impaired students can be taught to use this tool but will require some assistance. 

Alternatively, students can use any number of talking scales available on the market.  The electronic OHaus Scout Pro balance allows students to hear the mass of a given object when the  balance is connected to a computer on which Logger Pro has been installed    (both balance and and Logger Pro software available from www.independencescience.com)

Background related to this mass measurement lab:

As the material utilized to make pennies was cheapened from mostly copper to mostly zinc in 1962, the mass of a penny decreased.  Students will ascertain when this change occured as they measure a penny from each decade.  Please see attached lab.


1. Practice accurate measurement of mass

2. Complete research related to the reason for  change in the mass of a penny over the past 60 years.

  1. 6 pennies – one from each decade beginning with the 1960s
  2. Triple beam balance or electronic talking scale
  3. Attached procedure in correct reading medium
  4. Braille label paper
  5. Perkins Braillewriter
  1. Using a Perkin’s Braillewriter and Braille label paper (http://americanthermoform.com/braille-labeling-material/)  make 6 labels using literary numbers as follows:

         (Please see picture.)

  1. Alternatively large print labels can be made if the student is a large print student
  2. Cut out labels as small as possible so as to fit one on the top of each penny.
  3. Remove backing and label pennies accordingly.


Mass Measurement – Penny Lab

Name ______________________________

Date   ______________________________

Class _________


A penny is a penny is a penny is a penny…..or IS it?

Complete the following activity to compare the mass of pennies.

You have been given a penny produced in each of the past 6 decades.

You will measure and compare the masses of the pennies.

  1. Measure the mass of each of the 6 pennies.
  2. Record the mass in the table below.
  3. Answer the questions in the Data Analysis section.

Decade of Production

Mass of Penny













Mass of a Penny

Data Analysis

  1. Has the mass of a penny increased or decreased over the past 60 years? _______________________________________________________________________________________________


  1. Why has the mass of a penny changed? You may use technology to research what pennies have been made of over the past 60 years? _______________________________________________________________________________________________

If possible to obtain pennies produced earlier than 1962, it is possible to expand this lab to earlier decades and to have students research the composition of pennies from that time.

By Laura Hospitál

Attached File(s)

https://www.perkins.org/wp-content/uploads/elearning-media/Penny%20Lab%20w-%20questions%20-%2018pt%20bold_0.doc https://www.perkins.org/wp-content/uploads/elearning-media/Penny%20Lab%20w-%20questions%20-%2012%20pt.doc

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