What's the Matter?

How can you tell if matter is a solid, a liquid, or a gas? Sometimes matter is not what it appears to be. In science class, you have been learning about the physical properties of matter. In this activity, you and a family member can investigate some matter and decide what state it is in.


A container of corn starch and a glass of water.


With the help of a family member, carefully measure one-fourth cup of cornstarch and pour it into the plastic cup. Then measure one-eighth cup of water and pour it into the cup. Stir quickly with the craft stick until the matter becomes smooth. Observe the matter. Does it look like a solid or a liquid? Explain. Now poke your finger into the matter. Does it behave like a solid or a liquid? Explain. Place a spoonful of the matter in your hand and try to roll it into a ball. Then put the matter on a tabletop. What happened when you tried to roll it into a ball? What happened when you put it on the tabletop? Now pick up the matter and hold it in the palm of your hand for a few minutes. Do you see any changes happening that make you think a gas might be present? Why or why not?


Talk with a family member about your observations. Is the matter a solid, a liquid, or a gas? When does the matter behave like a solid? When does it behave like a liquid?