# Properties of Matter

In this unit, students discuss the science phenomena of how matter has different properties depending on the number and kind of atoms that make it up. In this lesson, they observe how forces act on matter, focusing on how unbalanced forces cause objects to move. This page provides a high-level extract of this lesson.

## Science Background for Teachers:

Science background gives teachers more in-depth information on the topic explored in this unit. Below is an excerpt from this section for the lesson on properties of matter.

In every experiment, whether on Earth or on the space station, matter and energy are constantly interacting. In fact, all of science begins with a basic understanding of matter—everything that has mass and takes up space. Matter makes up all of the substances in the universe. All matter contains energy, and matter only changes when enough energy is present. For example, zebrafish are made of matter, but they can only survive and grow when they eat enough food, which has energy.

All matter is made of atoms, which are the smallest pieces of matter that have the properties of an element. An element is a substance made up entirely of one kind of atom. Atoms are so tiny that we cannot see them. Just one grain of sand is made up of many millions of atoms. Because of this, scientists use scale to better understand the size of an atom, the parts that make it up, and how it relates to everyday substances. Scale is the size, extent, or importance (magnitude) of something relative to something else. For example, think about all of the atoms that make up a grapefruit. If each atom were the size of a blueberry, the grapefruit would have to be the size of Earth. There are so many atoms in just one grapefruit that they are impossible to count. Imagine having to fill up the entire planet with blueberries. That’s about how many atoms are in one grapefruit.

Atoms themselves are made up of smaller particles, called protons, neutrons, and electrons. These smaller particles are called subatomic particles. These smaller particles are much smaller than the atom itself. For example, the protons and neutrons group together in the atom’s core, called the nucleus. If you were to open up the blueberry (representing the atom), the nucleus would be too small to see.

If you were to make the blueberry the size of a football field, you would just be able to see the nucleus. It would be the size of a small marble. The nucleus is very dense because it holds all of the atom’s protons and neutrons. The electrons are in constant motion around the nucleus. However, most of the atom is filled with empty space. There are vast regions of space between each of the electrons and between the electrons and the nucleus.

As of 2023, scientists have discovered 118 kinds of elements. These 118 elements are the only substances needed to form all of the matter in the universe. For this reason, atoms are called the building blocks of matter, and they can join together in different ways. Two or more atoms joined together are called molecules.

The number and types of atoms that make up matter determine the properties of an object or substance. Properties are observable or measurable characteristics of matter. For example, gold atoms conduct electricity, and helium atoms are a gas at room temperature.

All matter has both physical and chemical properties. Physical properties are characteristics of an object or substance as it exists. Physical properties include color, odor, mass, volume, shape, boiling point, and melting point. Scientists and engineers need to know the properties of various materials when they think about how those materials will be used.

For example, the outer shell of the International Space Station’s modules is made of mostly aluminum. Aluminum is light-weight, yet strong, which means it is easier to lift into orbit from Earth. It is also flexible and smooth, so it can be molded into various forms.

Properties also change as atoms form bonds and combine. For example, aluminum oxide is a molecule made from two aluminum atoms and three oxygen atoms. It commonly exists as a gas Water (H2O) is a molecule made from two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. The properties of water (H2O) are different from the properties of the atoms it is made from. For example, at normal room temperature, both oxygen and hydrogen are gasses. When atoms of hydrogen and oxygen join as a molecule of water, they change into a liquid.

Mass is a physical property of matter. Mass is the amount of matter an object or substance has packed inside. Scientists measure mass in grams (g). Mass increases as the number and size of atoms increase in an object. An aluminum foil roll is less massive than a gold brick because aluminum atoms have less atomic mass than gold atoms. Pan balances are instruments used to compare a known mass to an unknown mass. Digital or electronic scales can also be used to measure mass.

## Science Lesson: Exploring Properties of Matter

In this lesson, students design and carry out an experiment to compare the masses of equal volumes of gravel and sand. The purpose of this first lab is to introduce students to the scientific process through a simple experiment in which they engage with the science and engineering practices in the context of matter and its properties.

## Science Big Ideas

• Science is the search for explanations about the natural world. Scientists follow a scientific process that provides a systematic, logical framework for investigating the answers to their questions.
• Both science and engineering are part of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) cycle. They are connected and interact with one another, but they are also different. Science always begins with a question, while engineering begins with a problem that needs to be solved.
• Matter is everything that has mass and takes up space. This means that all matter is made up of atoms, which are the smallest pieces of matter that have the properties of an element. An element is a substance made up entirely of one kind of atom.
• Matter has different properties— observable and measurable characteristics of matter. A substance’s properties depend on the number and kind of atoms that make it up.

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## Science Essential Questions

• Why is evidence important in science and how do scientists gather evidence?
• Why are data important in an experiment?
• Why does each element have a unique set of properties?
• Which properties can be used to describe gravel?
• Which properties can be used to describe sand?
• Why is mass an example of a property?
• What makes a substance more massive than another substance?

## Common Science Misconceptions

Misconception: Weight and mass are the same thing.
Fact: Weight and mass are two different measurements. Mass measures the amount of matter in a substance, while weight is a gravitational force exerted on an object’s mass by a planet or moon.

## Science Vocabulary

Atom: the smallest piece of matter that has the properties of an element; a combination of three subatomic particles: protons, neutrons, and electrons

Mass: a measure of the amount of matter that makes up an object; measured in grams (g)

Matter : everything that has mass and takes up space

Property: an observable or measurable characteristic of matter

Scale:  the size, extent, or importance (magnitude) of something relative to something else

Science:  all knowledge gained from experiments

Volume: a measure of how much space an object or substance takes up; measured in cubic meters (m3) or liters (l)

Weight:  a gravitational force exerted on an object by a planet or moon; measured in newtons (N)

## Lexile(R) Certified Non-Fiction Science Reading (Excerpt)

Matter in Space

Whether in space or on Earth, all matter shares certain characteristics. Matter is everything that has mass and takes up space. Both nonliving things and living things are made up of matter. Even though atoms make up both living and nonliving things, atoms are not alive. The space station is matter. The zebrafish are matter, as is the water they live in. Astronauts are also made of matter.

All matter is made up of tiny parts that are too small to be seen. These parts are called atoms. An atom is the smallest piece of matter that has the properties of an element.

An element is a substance entirely made up of one kind of atom. Oxygen is an element. Hydrogen is another element. There are 118 different kinds of elements. Elements have unique properties because of the kinds of atoms that make them up.

Many billions of atoms make up even a single grain of sand. For example, think about a grapefruit. If each atom in the grapefruit were the size of a blueberry, the grapefruit would have to be the size of Earth.

There are so many atoms in just one grapefruit that they are impossible to count. Imagine having to fill up the entire planet with blueberries. That’s about how many atoms are in one grapefruit.

Atoms themselves are made up of smaller particles, called protons, neutrons, and electrons. These smaller particles are much smaller than the atom itself. Because atoms are so tiny, scientists use scale to better understand the size of an atom, its smaller parts, and how it relates to everyday substances. Scale is the size, extent, or importance (magnitude) of something relative to something else.

For example, the protons and neutrons group together in the atom’s core. The core is called the nucleus. If the atom is the size of a blueberry and you open the blueberry up, the nucleus would be too small to see.

If you were to make the blueberry the size of a football field, you would just be able to see the nucleus. It would be the size of a small marble. The electrons are much smaller than the protons and neutrons. They are in constant motion around the nucleus. However, most of the atom is filled with empty space. There are huge amounts of space between each of the electrons and between the electrons and the nucleus.

## Hands-on Science Activity

For the hands-on activity of this lesson, students investigate the masses of equal volumes of gravel and sand, analyzing the data for patterns in the measurements. Student teams compare their results with other groups to highlight similarities and/or differences in the masses. Finally, students use the data to either support or reject their hypothesis about how the mass of gravel compares to the mass of sand.

## Science Assessments

KnowAtom incorporates formative and summative assessments designed to make students thinking visible for deeper student-centered learning.

• Vocabulary Check
• Lab Checkpoints
• Concept Check Assessment
• Concept Map Assessment
• And More...

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