Essential Science for Teachers: Physical Science
What Is Matter?: Properties and Classification of Matter Interactive Activity: 4-Question Survey
4-Question Survey: Matter
The series of questions presented in this activity will help you find out your ideas or your students’ ideas about matter. As highlighted in this video series, when we articulate our misconceptions, we are taking the first step to rectifying them.
Surveying is one of many educational strategies that teachers can use to elicit ideas. Even a brief survey, such as the one presented next, can provide a learning opportunity for students and teachers alike. Students can reveal their misconceptions for the first time as well as open their minds to accepting scientific points of view. Teachers can form a basis for making instructional decisions, whether to validate students’ correct yet unsure ideas, confront student misconceptions, reinforce ideas that are forming, or complement ideas that are accurate but only partial explanations.
Before you complete the survey, please identify who you are (pick just one):
Survey Question 1: Answer
The correct answer is B: a tank filled with compressed air weighs more than an empty tank. Air is matter, and so by definition has weight and takes up space. Many people have the misconception that air is either weightless or will subtract weight from something that it fills. Others may be thrown off by answer c, believing that the outside air pressure might be great enough to “buoy” up the filled tank. Under everyday conditions, however, the effect of the outside air pressure on the weight of the tank is so small as to be negligible.
Survey Question 2: Answer
The correct answer is A: helium. Though it is a gas that is lighter than air, helium does take up space and have weight. Gravity is the name of the force that attracts bodies of matter towards each other. Light and heat are forms of energy and, like gravity, do not have weight and do not take up space.
Survey Question 3: Answer
The correct answer is C: its density. Density is a property associated with the “material kind” of matter referred to in the video, and is a measure of the number of particles of matter per area. The density of matter does not change, regardless of how it is divided. Length, shape, and weight are all properties that have no effect on the density of matter.
Survey Question 4: Answer
The correct answer is A: the false statement is that plasmas make up a small percentage of the visible universe. Ninety-nine percent of what we observe when we look to the skies with a telescope or our naked eye is plasma. The credit for discovering the “fourth state of matter” is given to the English scientist William Crookes, who, in the late nineteenth century, was studying the effect and behavior of gases at low densities inside a tube, when an electric discharge was introduced. He realized that a new state of matter appeared and that an electric current could pass through it. This new state was eventually named plasma in the 1920s by the American physicist Irving Langmuir.
Session 1 What Is Matter?: Properties and Classification of Matter
What is matter? This question at first seems deceptively simple — matter is all around us. Yet how do we define it? What does a block of cheese have in common with the Moon? What are the characteristics of matter that set it apart from something that is definitely not matter? Matter is one of the big ideas in science. Most areas in physical science can be discussed and explained in terms of matter or energy, and matter is a subject that naturally bridges to the other sciences (chemistry, life, earth science, etc.). In this session, we’ll build a working definition of matter, learn to distinguish between its “accidental” and “essential” properties, and explore it through classification, an activity with a rich history in science.
Session 2 The Particle Nature of Matter: Solids, Liquids, and Gases
What simple idea links together all of chemistry and physics? How can a close study of the macroscopic differences among solids, liquids, and gases support a microscopic model of tiny, discrete, and constantly moving particles? In this session, participants learn how the "particle model" can be turned into a powerful tool for generating predictions about the behavior of matter under a wide range of conditions.
Session 3 Physical Changes and Conservation of Matter
What happens when sugar is dissolved in a glass of water or when a pot of water on the stove boils away? Do things ever really "disappear?" In everyday life, observations that things "disappear" or "appear" seem to contradict one of the fundamental laws of nature: matter can be neither created nor destroyed. In this session, participants learn how the principles of the particle model are consistent with conservation of matter.
Session 4 Chemical Changes and Conservation of Matter
How can the particle model account for what happens when two clear liquids are mixed together and they produce a milky-white solid? What happens when iron rusts? Where do the elements come from? In this session, participants extend the particle model by looking inside the particles, learn about some early chemical pioneers, and in the process discover how the law of conservation of matter applies even at the scale of atoms and molecules.
Session 5 Density and Pressure
What makes a block of wood rise to the surface of a bucket of water? Why do your ears pop when you swim deep underwater? In this session, participants examine density, an essential property of matter. They also look at how particles of matter are in constant motion, which leads to a deeper understanding of fluid pressure. Lastly, the concepts of pressure and density are investigated to explain the macroscopic phenomenon of rising and sinking.
Session 6 Rising and Sinking
Why does a hot air balloon rise into the sky? Why does ice rise in water, when a lump of solid wax will sink in a jar full of molten wax? In this session, participants generalize the model that has been developed about what rises and what sinks, using the idea of balance of forces.
Session 7 Heat and Temperature
What makes the liquid in a thermometer rise or fall in response to temperature? Which contains more heat — a boiling teakettle on the stove or a swimming pool of lukewarm water? In this session, participants focus on the difference between heat and temperature, and examine how both are defined in terms of particles. The particle model is then used to explain a number of everyday phenomena, from why things expand when they are heated to the role that temperature plays in changes of state.
Sessions 8 Extending the Particle Model of Matter
In this session, participants extend their understanding of the particle model to explain additional macroscopic phenomena, including the electrical properties of matter. Participants review the progression of ideas covered in the course and anticipate future developments in the understanding of matter.