Teacher Site Map
5th Grade Core
USOE Science Home Page

What Kind of Change is It?

Magicians are not the only ones who can change one material into something completely different. Did you know that scientists, nature, and even you can change one material into another?  We call this “magic” a chemical reaction.

In a chemical reaction, matter is changed from one substance to another.

Burning wood changes the wood into ash. Water will react with iron to form a new product. Do you know what it is? If you have ever left your bicycle in the rain you probably know it is called rust.


Chemical reactions may also produce heat, light, bubbles or color changes. When the bike rusted, the metal turned a different color so we know that a chemical reaction occurred between the bike and the water. Please remember that not all color changes prove that a chemical reaction has taken place.

A physical change is different than a chemical change. Things that are changed physically do not turn into something else.

Breaking a match in two pieces is an example of a physical change. Lighting a match and letting is burn is an example of a chemical change.


Chemical reactions cause chemical changes. In a chemical reaction two or more substances, called the reactants, form different substances called products. In the above examples the wood and oxygen were the reactants that, when heated, formed the products of ash and smoke (gases). Water, iron, and oxygen were the reactants that formed the product called rust.




Wood + oxygen (heat)


Ash + smoke

Water + iron + oxygen



What would happen if you were to change one of the reactants in a chemical reaction? What if, instead of water, you put grease or oil on your bike? Would you still get rust? Of course not. You would get a greasy bike!

 Not all substances will react with each other. Grease + iron + oxygen will not cause a chemical reaction. Changing the reactants will change the results of the experiment.

Do it!

Examine the left side of the chart below. Decide if the action taking place is a physical change or a chemical reaction. Click and drag to your answer in the column on the right. Then check your answers by highlighting the box below. Good luck!

Action taking place

Type of Change

1. Glass breaking

2. Ice cube melting

3. Candle burning

4. Food digesting in your stomach

5. Chopping wood

6. Marshmallow burning

7. Lake freezing

8. Bread baking

9. Sugar dissolving

10. Popsicle melting

11. Gasoline burning in an engine

12. Ripping Paper

1. Physical change, 2. Physical change, 3. Chemical change, 4. Chemical change,5. Physical change, 6. Chemical change, 7. Physical change, 8. Chemical change, 9. Physical change, 10. Physical change, 11. Chemical change, 12. Physical change


Get the plug-ins: Get Adobe Acrobat Reader , and Get Quicktime Player. (The QuickTime plug-in is needed to play sounds and movies correctly.)

Want to share photos of you or your friends doing this activity? Send it in an e-mail with the following information:

  1. The title of the activity
  2. The URL (Internet address)
  3. Your name.
Remember that no pictures can be used that show student faces or student names on it. 

Teachers should view the Teacher Site Map to relate Sci-ber text and the USOE 5th grade science core.

Updated October 24, 2008 by: Glen Westbroek

Science Home Page | Curriculum Home Page | 5th Science Core Home Page | USOE Home Page

Copyright Utah State Office of Education.