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Bowling Ball—Will it Sink or Float in Water? Mark as Favorite (2 Favorites)

LAB in Density, Review, Accuracy, Dimensional Analysis, Measurements, Accuracy, Error analysis, Experimental design. Last updated September 06, 2019.


In this lab, students will carry out measurements and calculations to determine whether a bowling ball will sink or float in water.

Grade Level

High school


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

  • Understand the concept of density related to sinking and floating.

Chemistry Topics

This lesson supports students’ understanding of

  • Density
  • Dimensional analysis


Teacher Preparation: 15 minutes

Lesson: 30 minutes


  • Ruler
  • String
  • Balance
  • Bowling ball
  • Other measuring tools students may request


No specific safety precautions are needed for this experiment.

Teacher Notes

Students initially guess that the bowling ball will sink in water. After all the lab groups make measurements and can predict the outcome of the test, I drop a ball into a big plastic storage container full of water. The look on their faces when the 8-lb ball floats is priceless, and it’s a great hook for learning to do math in the first two weeks of school. I also do this as a demo for the parents at Open House and they love it too. It's a good activity and memorable.

For the Student



Will a bowling ball sink or float in water?


Obtain a bowling ball. Devise a method to determine whether a bowling ball will sink or float in water. Record all measurements that you make in a data table.

Remember: C = 2πr Vsphere = 4/3(πr3) Dwater = 1.0 g/mL


So will a bowling ball sink or float in water? Explain.


Identify two specific sources of experimental error in this activity.