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Scientific Measuring Devices

Discusses how to correctly use instruments for measuring volume and mass.

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What type of tool would you use to measure mass?

Measuring Mass with a Trple Beam Balance

Mass is the amount of matter in an object. Scientists often measure mass with a balance. A type of balance called a triple beam balance is pictured in Figure below To use this type of balance, follow these steps:

  1. Place the object to be measured on the pan at the left side of the balance.
  2. Slide the movable masses to the right until the right end of the arm is level with the balance mark. Start by moving the larger masses and then fine tune the measurement by moving the smaller masses as needed.
  3. Read the three scales to determine the values of the masses that were moved to the right. Their combined mass is equal to the mass of the object.

The Figure below is an enlarged version of the scales of the triple beam balance in Figure above. It allows you to read the scales. The middle scale, which measures the largest movable mass, reads 300 grams. This is followed by the top scale, which reads 30 grams. The bottom scale reads 5.1 grams. Therefore, the mass of the object in the pan is 335.1 grams (300 grams + 30 grams + 5.1 grams).

Measuring Mass with a Electronic Balance

To measure very small masses, scientists use electronic balances, like the one in the Figure below. This type of balance also makes it easier to make accurate measurements because mass is shown as a digital readout. 

Directions for using an electronic balance

      1. After turning the balance on make sure to clean the pan off.

      2. Before placing any object on the pan make sure the balance is showing zero, if it is showing any number      other than zero hit the zero/tare button to make the balance show zero

     3. If the balance is showing zero then the object to measured can be placed on the pan to be measured.


  1. Using the enlarged metric ruler segment shown below, what is the length of the blue line in centimeters?
  1. Assume that an object has been placed in the pan of a triple beam balance. The scales of the balance are shown below. What is the mass of the object?
  1. How much liquid does this graduated cylinder contain?

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