Comparing the Accuracy of Liquid Measurement Tools

Blog, She Wrote: Comparing the Accuracy of Liquid Measurement Tools

Have you ever thought about how accurate your volumetric measuring tools are? How do you know your measuring cup is calibrated? Is it good science to use your kitchen tools for science? Today’s discussion is Comparing the Accuracy of Liquid Measuring Tools.

Are All Volumetric Measuring Tools the Same?

Blog, She Wrote: Comparing the Accuracy of Liquid Measurement Tools

The gold standard in measuring volume is the Volumetric Flask. It’s a laboratory flask which is calibrated precisely to a certain volume at a particular temperature. They come in various sizes from 1-10,000 mL of liquid. But, they are also expensive and they are typically not found in classroom labs or homes because neither work with extremely precise volumes of liquid.

So, what do we use instead? The rule of thumb is to use the graduated cylinder. With all the markings on the cylinder, it is considered more accurate than other volume measuring tools. But, is there a big difference? We decided to test them to see.

Tools for Measuring Volume

Blog, She Wrote: Comparing the Accuracy of Liquid Measurement Tools

What are some tools available for measuring volume?

  • Beakers– Are containers primarily used for mixing and heating. There are markings on them for measuring, but they are meant to be approximate.
  • Measuring Cups– The liquid measuring kitchen variety. We use Pyrex brand.
  • Erlenmeyer Flasks– These are wide bottomed but not circular with a neck that can use a stopper (with or without holes). It makes a good reaction vessel and allows a larger area for smaller volumes.
  • Florence Flask– This is a round bottomed flask used for boiling solutions.
  • Field Collecting Tubes– These are screw top collecting tubes which come in 15 mL or 50 mL and they are terrific for collecting aquatic specimens in the field. We use them during our entomology excursions.
  • Pipettes– Used for moving small volumes of water or removing liquid in small increments. I like the disposable kind because the cleaning is much easier!
  • Graduated Cylinder– Are used for measuring volumetric quantities. They range in size from 10- 1000 mL. If you are going to choose only one, the 100 mL size is a good one.

So, if you want to use something other than what’s found in your kitchen, where do you get them? We use Home Science Tools. We order some specialty items, like collecting tubes, from BioQuip. Just for fun, we also visited our local university’s chemistry supply room. Armed with gift money, our then 8 year old, took a trip with Dad to pick out his own glassware.

Testing the Accuracy of Volume Measuring Tools

Blog, She Wrote: Comparing the Accuracy of Liquid Measurement Tools

Since we used the graduated cylinder as our gold standard, we chose to determine the final volume in a graduated cylinder. Our procedure:

  • Choose a beaker, flask, or collecting tube and fill it with water to the highest marked volume in mL.
  • Record that volume in your data chart which will be labeled with the containers you are using.
  • Pour the contents of the first container into the appropriately (closest) sized graduated cylinder available.
  • Measure the volume of water in the graduated cylinder
  • Record the volume.
  • Repeat using various sized measurement tools.

How to Record Data When Doing a Science Exploration

Blog, She Wrote: Comparing the Accuracy of Liquid Measurement Tools

The data chart for recording volume was designed by each student separately based on what we needed to write down. Here are a few things to remember about data charts and recording data.

  • Have each student design her own based on ability- parents can step in when columns are missing.
  • Give hints or general categories students need to remember when constructing their own chart. It’s ok if the charts turn out differently from others as long as they record everything.
  • Creating their own data chart is a great way to learn the skill of organizing information. I think we underestimate the importance of our homeschooled students being able to organize information on their own- without the help of a printable!
  • Remember printables are fun, but they aren’t necessary and sometimes they slow you down– like when you are spending all your time looking for ones you’ve already printed or when you can’t find just the perfect one.
  • Scientists in the field must create their own data charts since they often design their own experiments. Step boldly!

Our Findings- How Accurate are the Volumetric Tools?

Blog, She Wrote: Comparing the Accuracy of Liquid Measurement Tools

What were the results?

  • All volumetric containers are not the same!
  • The graduated cylinder has more markings and measures more accurately – it was certainly easier to determine an accurate volume with more gradations.
  • The readings on the graduated cylinder were higher than the same volume measurement in the other tools.
  • The larger the container, the larger the discrepancy. The largest beaker was off my 20 mL or more!

What does it all mean? Well, it means if you want accurate volume without using a volumetric flask, use the graduated cylinder for the best results. Always use the container that will reasonably hold your liquids. If you use the extreme opposite, your readings will be less accurate.

Does My Homeschool Need Volumetric Measuring Tools?

Some of you might be asking whether or not it’s a good idea to invest in some volumetric containers for your homeschool. Is it a good idea? Here are a few things to think on:

  • Using containers meant for science frees up your kitchen tools– I prefer to use science tools for science and kitchen tools for the kitchen. That might be the science teacher talking, but it’s more than that!
  • Some chemicals don’t belong in vessels we eat from– Perhaps your wet labs aren’t dangerous, but some of them might be.
  • Using science tools reinforces safety measures– We don’t eat in the lab! Nor should we really eat from vessels used in the lab.
  • Ensures your students know how to measure volume accurately using appropriate tools
  • Your students will be versed in labware and how to use it
  • It helps our science to be more accurate– rather than guessing at volume when your liquid falls somewhere between 50 mL marks!

It’s easy to start out with a few beakers and graduated cylinders. We have a mixture of plastic and glass, but plastic lets me relax a little more. I would recommend a 100 mL graduated cylinder, 250 & 500 mL beakers at a minimum to start. If you work in small volumes, a 10 mL graduated cylinder is a good size.

Even the simplest of labs can introduce a great deal of concepts and provide plenty of practice at homeschool science. It’s important to use scientific volumetric tools as much as possible. Your measurements will be more accurate!

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Methods for Teaching Middle School & High School Homeschool

Blog, She Wrote: Teaching Middle & High School Language Arts

This week the iHN is hosting a Hopscotch on “How I Teach”. Here at Blog, She Wrote I’m sharing methods for teaching middle and high school students in all the major subject areas. We’ll be discussing strategy and curriculum. Today our topic is language arts.

Strategies for Teaching Middle School & High School Homeschool Language Arts

My philosophy on teaching writing and language skills from a young age is one of a coaching role. My job is to meet my writers where they are, give them the tools they need and how to use them and to help them to meet their goals. What is the goal? To be an effective written communicator. That’s what it’s all about.

  • Play with Words– enjoy exercises and fun ways to engage with words to increase vocabulary. Click the link to see five great ideas I wrote for Bright Ideas Press.
  • Collage Words– More details on reflecting on a word and exploring its meanings.
  • Resources for Coaching Writing– a list of some of my favorite resources for coaching writers.
  • Conferences– I meet with my kids regularly to go over their written work and to see what can be improved. I take a look at the first draft and usually ask the student to go back and self edit, naming the thing they are notorious for forgetting- whether that be correct capitalization or wild commas. If the piece of writing is hard to decipher because of poor organization/grammar/spelling, I have them read it to me. When they read it aloud they realize that without grammar conventions/organization, the reader will not experience the piece the way the author intended. This goes a LONG way to encouraging kids to edit their work.
  • Writer’s Workshop– I’ve been hosting a workshop that includes my kids along with about five other homeschoolers in our home since September. I’ll be posting more detail on this soon, but having kids write for an audience is one of the best investments I’ve made in time this year. If you’d like a little more information now, click the link above on Resources for Coaching Writing.

Blog, She Wrote: Teaching Middle & High School Language Arts

Our Favorite Middle School & High School Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum

  • Cover Story– This is a middle school writing program written by Daniel Schwabauer, the creator of One Year Adventure Novel. My 6th and 8th graders are working on building the pieces to their own magazine issue based on a theme they chose. There are video lessons which are well done along with resources for the parents. The younger siblings of OYAN students approve!
  • WriteShop– WriteShop Junior & WriteShop I and II. I love WriteShop for its ability to break down the writing process into pre-writing, drafts/editing, and final, published copy. We use this between the informal early elementary years and the time we begin creative writing and expository writing programs. I also use units from WS 1&2 to help with organizations of essays at any time during the teen years.
  • One Year Adventure Novel – Write a novel in one school year. That is the aim of OYAN and it is adored by us all. The lessons are thorough and draw the students in. My two favorite things (besides the novel) are: 1) How the curriculum provides excellent talking points about literature with our teens. 2) The community Mr. Schwabauer has created for teens to interact with each other. My 10th grader loves the OYAN forums where he can be himself and be in community with other kids who love books and stories as much as he does. There are also regular webinars with extra instruction.
  • Other Worlds– The follow up to the One Year Adventure Novel. This one is focused on writing fantasy and science fiction. My 10th grader is working on his fantasy novel. I enjoy the lessons on the history of science fiction and fantasy and how they are different from adventure.
  • Literary Lessons from The Lord of the Rings– Spend time immersed in the three books that make up The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Wonderful vocabulary studies, chapter discussions, essays, and unit studies based on this fantasy tale.
  • Excellence in LiteratureClassic literature is taught in four week modules with honors options. I have all five volumes so we can skip around. They are meant to be use 8th-12th grade. This program has been a great model of student led reading and writing on the classics and has been very successful so far.

Slow and steady wins the race. We try to keep moving forward and see our kids make progress in their writing skills. We add in what’s necessary as they gain skills so they can be stretched to the next level. Our kids are immersed in reading and writing in many forms from a young age and we love to watch them gain confidence as they get older. Coming soon news from our Writer’s Workshop!

The iHomeschool Network is hosting a Hopscotch series this week on “How I Teach”. Join other iHN bloggers to see how they teach Language Arts. You’ll find information on working with special needs all the way to gifted kids and everything in between.


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The Making of a Wizard & The Crafty Side of Math

Blog, She Wrote: The Making of a Wizard & the Crafty Side of Math

Do you have a creative child in your life? How about a child who doesn’t enjoy math? Have you struggled to get your child to engage with math?

Today’s post is about encouraging math with creative kids or how to engage kids creatively with math!

Blog She Wrote: Engaging Creative Kids with math

Living Math and Creative Kids:

We hear a lot about living math these days, but what does the term really mean? I see a lot of blogs with labels on living math, but I’m not sure it all fits the criteria. Living math isn’t just about hands on experiences or adventures with math. Living math is essentially applied math. It’s the math you encounter when you are working on a goal- whether it’s cooking, creating, planning, or building.

You can orchestrate living math with projects you devise and suggest, but the best kind of living math comes when your student is working on something creative and comes across the need for math. THIS is when the magic happens.

Blog She Wrote: Pattern Drafting

R12 made four crocheted Gandalfs from a pattern found at Geek Central Station.

What Math Is Needed for the Gandalf Crochet Pattern?

  • Following the crochet pattern– what a lot of counting and spatial reasoning!
  • Drafting the patterns for Gandalf’s clothing-The pattern provided was for the body itself. Rather than purchasing the clothing patterns, she made her own. There’s quite a lot of math in measuring and adjust patterns to fit a particular size.
  • The Brim of the Hat– she needed to use some serious geometry to find the size of the cone to fit the brim of the hat or how to get the circle at the bottom of the cone to be the right size for the brim. She also needed to work out how wide to make the brim itself.

How Did She Solve the Problem? By searching for equations on the internet based on what she knew already about cones and triangles. She actually knew a bit of trigonometry from a discussion with her dad over a slide rule. They had a long discussion about right triangles which started her down a path to conquer her problem.

She did some measuring and given her four Gandalfs were not precisely the same size, she had to adjust them and make four separate ones. She made the jacket from a flat construction she recently learned and was able to try them on and adjust the fit.

Blog She Wrote: Engaging Creative Kids with math

The Key to Engaging Creative Kids with Math:

  • Slow down your schedule– if you and your children are always on the go from one activity to the next, no matter how amazing the activities are, you are taking away from creative time. Think about whether your schedule aligns with the goals you have for your homeschool and family life. Drop things out if you need to.
  • Allow them time for creating– Even if you are home, it’s easy to schedule time with what needs doing whether it’s school work or house work and chores. My observation is that you need to allow kids the time for pursuing their passions. Make plenty of time for it. How they use it will change as they get older and it varies based on the personalities of your children.
  • Give them permission to create on their own without an agenda set by you or anyone else. This is at the heart of Project Based Homeschooling, but even if you don’t consider yourself relaxed enough for this, this is important stuff. Directing projects and managing everything our kids do is quite different from mentoring them to manage their own stuff. Saving a portion of the day for this type of learning is key to becoming an independent learner.
  • Be sure to have the necessary supplies on hand for creating– this may seem so simple, but if your children cannot get to the supplies or there are none available then their creations are limited.

Blog She Wrote: Pattern Drafting

How Does Allowing Time for Creativity Encourage Math Skills?

Chances are your student will come across the need for math while working on his creative project. What counts as math?

  • Measuring– this can come in all forms, but not only requires the act of measuring it’s usually followed up with some arithmetic to figure out if it’s the right size for his intentions.
  • Pattern Following– no matter what you are building or sewing, following a pattern requires mathematical thinking from measuring to spatial reasoning. Being able to do it well takes practice, but it’s a great skill to have.
  • Organizing– if your student is working on a project from idea to product, there’s likely some organizing going on. Organizational thinking and putting steps in order is a mathematical skill.
  • Pattern Drafting– it takes a lot of mathematical thinking to draft your own pattern for something whether it’s for sewing or wood working or anything in between. R12 has been making a lot of patterns and she’s been working with size and proportion and how different elements fit together to make the whole.

Blog She Wrote: Pattern Drafting

R12 doesn’t enjoy using existing clothing patterns as much as she enjoys drafting them. She’s been given some basic tools to get this job done and it’s been a fantastic learning experience to go after it on her own.

A Few Resources for Pattern Drafting:

  • How to Make Sewing Patterns– oldie but goodie on pattern drafting
  • How to Use, Adapt, and Design Sewing Patterns– she uses this one more
  • Blogs & Tutorials- she has learned a LOT by reading what others are doing. Now that she has her own Galaxy Player (think Android version of an iPod touch for you iPeople), she can look up her favorite creative blogs while she works which she LOVES.

The take home point here is that R12 spends a lot of time immersed in her creations and she enjoys tackling the math when it is for the purpose of finishing her creation. She will ask for help if she needs it, but mostly she comes to discuss where she is and how its going. She is far less frustrated throughout this process than when she has to do a problem for a problem’s sake.

Blog She Wrote: Engaging Creative Kids with math

Allowing Time for Creativity & Invention Boosts Morale during the Prescribed Math Time:

  • Prior Knowledge– if they encounter a concept on their own and they tackle it, then they’ve seen it before and they can add it to their math toolbox. Accessing prior knowledge is king when it comes to working on new concepts.
  • Confidence Booster– meeting up with and working out the math for one of their projects reinforces the idea that we are all math smart. We just need to nurture that smart and what better way to do that than with something we are good at?
  • Spoonful of Sugar– helps the medicine go down! When you allow plenty of time for pursuing passions and doing math their way, it helps ease the tension when they have to sit and just do math.

So, do you leave time in your schedule for your creative child to pursue his passion? Is there time in your day and are there materials available for your children to dive into a project? The investment of time related to projects helps to shore up those mathematical thinking skills outside of prescribed math time. I’ve seen focused effort on a math problem that far exceeds anything I would lay out for her and this is when you’ll see pure tenacity in getting the job done!

If “living math” is not all you’d hoped it would be in your homeschool, then I challenge you to discern whether it’s really the applied living math you are seeking or if it’s just a veneer of the real thing. Authenticity is key when it comes to living math and finding it is really a matter of getting immersed in student driven learning.

I’d love to hear how you encourage your outside the box math learner. Feel free to leave a comment!

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