gator science

active adventures in lower school science

Can you fit more sugar in warm or cold water?

on March 20, 2013

Students in my fourth grade class wanted to find out if they could mix more sugar in warm or cold water.   We collected both qualitative and quantitative measurements in the lab.

qualitative measurements:

Cold water : the tablespoon of sugar sunk to the bottom of the beaker

Warm water: the tablespoon of sugar quickly dissolved in the water

quantitatvie measurements:

I could fit only 1 scoop of sugar in cold water until the sugar no longer dissolved in the water.

( 1 scoop)

I could fit up to 11 scoops of sugar in warm water until sugar no longer dissolved in the water.

(11 scoops)

I asked the students after the experiment why the warm water fit more sugar.  They understood that water molecules were more spread out when the temperature was warm, so more sugar molecules could fit into the space between the water molecules.

I asked students which kind of data they liked the most in helping them understand the experiment.

Many students felt the qualitative or descriptive model worked best, because they could actually see the difference.  Some students felt the quantitative or more precise model was more difficult to understand.  The numbers 1 scoop and 11 scoops were not as easy for them to visualize or see the importance.  Making a bar graph would help to make the quantitative data more visual for the students.

I think it was interesting that many students found the qualitative or descriptive data easier to understand.  Scientists may prefer the more exact quantitative measurements when gathering evidence to test an idea.   I thought it was pretty cool that my students found the value in both kinds of measurements.   Students are also starting to be able to distinguish between the beaker and graduated cylinders.  The fourth graders were successful scientists today in class!

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