top of page

M&Ms: A Primary/Intermediate Lesson

Published in F.A.S.T. Newsletter, August 2021
Adapted from:  Inquiry in Action: Investigating Matter through Inquiry, American Chemical Society, 2003.

For more information see:  A Guide to Teaching Elementary Science:  Ten Easy Steps, pages 93-96.


One of the approaches in teaching an effective science lesson is to follow the 5E Model of instruction, a framework for inquiry learning; engage, explore, explain, elaborate, evaluate. Aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), the lesson below essentially meets the goals of these standards.  Also included is a short explanation of the science concept, materials needed to teach it, possible home learning assignments, adaptations for ESE learners, the way the concept is connected to other subjects, and examples for real world applications. 


Background Information: Objects have observable properties, including size, weight, and temperature, which can be measured with rulers, balances and thermometers.  Objects are also described by their properties of the materials from which they are made and can be separated or sorted according to those properties.  All materials exist in different states- solid, liquid and gas- and can be changed from one state to another by heating and cooling. Soluble are substances that can be dissolved and solvents are the actual substances.


Materials: Candy M&Ms of all colors, five pieces of construction paper with a different colored M&M on each and folded in half to represent a group nametag, five pieces of colored construction paper representing the five colors of M&Ms (blue, green, red, yellow and orange) with One M&M in Water handout pasted to it, M&M Colors in Different Temperatures handout, four Bathroom size cups, Styrofoam plates, permanent marker, room temperature water, cold water, hot water, stopwatch, magnifying lens, paper towels.


Engage:  Teacher asks students what are the three states of matter and asks them to describe each.  Students then watch a brief video on BrainPop

After viewing the video, students are asked to describe what physical change is and the teacher asks how many students love to eat M&Ms.  Once students exclaim their color choice, the teacher explains that they are going to observe M&Ms in water.


Explore: Teacher divides class into collaborative learning groups of five students each, assigning roles such as project manager, assistant manager, materials manager, reporter, recorder, and team manager. Students may also select their jobs with the consensus of their peers in the group.  Responsibilities of each job is discussed. Each group decides which color M&M they want to investigate; blue, green, red, yellow and orange.  Then they are given a nametag representing their colored M&M and also the colored construction paper (coinciding with their nametag and colored M&M) pasted with One M&M in Water handout. Students have to read how to conduct the experiment together, completing it and observing their results for one minute while using their magnifying lens.  Once students finish the first investigation, they will be given the same colored M&M and receive a new same-colored construction paper with the investigation, M&M Colors in Different Temperatures handout pasted to it.  Students perform the experiment and observe what happens to the M&Ms.


Explain: Groups share their results with the class, explaining physical change.  In the first investigation, when an M&M is placed in water, the colored coating dissolves into the water in a relatively circular pattern around the M&M.  The color comes off because it is soluble, which means that the water molecules and the molecules that make up the coloring have an attraction for each other and mix together. In the second investigation, the M&M color dissolves in hot water faster than it does in room temperature or cold water.  The water molecules in hot water move faster and make more contacts with the color on the M&Ms, resulting in more dissolving.


Elaborate: Students can use several different colors of M&Ms or different liquids for both investigations and observe results.  In the investigation with different temperatures of water, students could use salt instead of an M&M and observe results (salt does not dissolve much faster in hot water than in room temperature water. 


Evaluate: Students draw and write in their science journals the investigation they conducted, their observations and the results, comparing one M&M in water to several M&Ms in different temperatures of water. Students could also brainstorm together and write or draw other experiments they could conduct with M&Ms.


Home Learning: Teacher passes out skittles to each student and tells them to complete the experiment with water only.  Students must report their results to the class.


Adaptations (For Exceptional Student Education): Students only complete One M&M in Water investigation. Students draw their observations.


Possible Connections to Other Disciplines: Integrates STEM, language arts, art.


Real World Connections:  Students should be aware that the properties of a solvent helps remove stains from clothes such as in dry cleaning or washing clothes in the washing machine. Also, carbonated soft drinks get their "fizz" from dissolved carbon dioxide gas, along with sugar and other flavorings, in a water solution. It is better to keep carbonated drinks in a warm environment rather than in a refrigerator because when the can is opened the carbon dioxide quickly leaves but some still stays in the soft drink, causing an explosion.




  1.  Fill a small bathroom size cup with room temperature water.  Pour the water into a Styrofoam plate so that it just covers the bottom.  Add more water if necessary.

  2. Place one M&M in the center of the plate.  Be careful to keep the water and candy as still as possible.  Observe for about 1 minute.  What do you observe?

  3.  Empty the plate of water and candy into a bowl or sink.  Dry the plate with a paper towel.


M&M Colors in Different Temperatures

  1.  Use a permanent marker to trace around the top of a bathroom cup to draw a circle in the center of each plate.  Turn the cup over and use the bottom to draw a smaller circle inside the larger one.  Make a dot in the center of the smaller circle.

  2. Fill a small bathroom size sup with room temperature water and pour the water into a Styrofoam plate.  Similarly, add hot water and cold water to each of two Styrofoam plates.

  3. At the same time, place the same colored M&M in the center of each plate.  Wait one minute.  What do you observe?

hasan-almasi-nKNm_75lH4g-unsplash Copy.j
bottom of page