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Physical Science: A Close Look at Chewing Gum

Grades: 5-8
Author: Tony Gosmer


Module Description

This module will provide an inquiry based investigation into the components of common chewing gum. Creating a better understanding of the sugar content and the polymeric properties.


  • Participants will utilize inquiry skills to explore a piece of chewing gum.
  • Participants will keep clear and accurate data.
  • Participants will properly use scientific equipment.


  • A variety of chewing gum (have enough gum so that each participant has at least 2 pieces, 1 with natural sugar and 1 with artificial sweeteners)
  • Triple beam scale
  • Reflection journal
  • Pen/pencils
  • Post-it notes
  • Napkins


This lesson is short but precise and poses some complex thoughts. The lesson is unique and tasty too. As an engagement strategy you simply state to the participants, "Who would like a piece of gum?"


Begin the professional development session with a simple question. "I have a piece of chewing gum. Could I have a volunteer come up and weigh the gum?"

The gum weighs 8 grams.

"If you were to put this piece of gum into my mouth and chew it for 5 minutes, what do you think it would weigh after 5 minutes of chewing?"

At this point have the participants write a short paragraph stating their hypothesis and supporting details.

While the volunteer is chewing, distribute gum to all participants and explain that they will follow a similar procedure to address the posed problem: weigh the gum, chew the gum for 5 minutes, then weigh the gum again.

Assessment: Be sure that participants understand the posed problem: determine the percent of sugar/artificial sweetener versus gum base in the chewing gum.


The data that the participants will be gathering will assist in supporting the original lesson procedures. (See lesson at:

Arrange the participants in small groups of no more than 2 or 3. Have the groups develop a procedure or plan to determine the percent of sugar/artificial sweetener versus gum base in the chewing gum.

Encourage discussions within the groups to comparing data.

Assessment: Monitor the groups' work to be sure that they are recording data, discussing findings, and answering the posed problem.


The participants at this point will share-out their procedures and findings and be able to explain their findings. Conduct a discussion to address a few questions often posed to the gum chewing world:

  • "Why does my gums lose its flavor so fast?"
  • "Why are some chewing gums bad for my teeth?"
  • "How are sugarless gums sweetened?"
  • "What percentage of the mass of a piece of gum is sugar or artificial sweetener or gum base?"
  • "Is gum good for me?"

Assessment: Assess groups through observation, participation final share-out. Teams can present findings using chart paper.


Discuss with participants some of the methods that teachers use in the science class. Have groups modify this lesson or design an inquiry lesson that can be easily administered in their classrooms.

Assessment: Check that the lesson plans are faithful to inquiry teaching methods.


The participants will have an opportunity to explore a typical piece of chewing gum using inquiry skills. They will explore the physical components that compose the gum and relate these components to the study of polymers.

Science Standards

Content, Technology, and Professional Development:

Content Standard B: Physical Science; Content Standard G: History and Nature of Science

N Professional Development Standards:

  • Involve teachers in actively investigating phenomena that can be studied scientifically, interpreting results, and making sense of findings consistent with currently accepted scientific understanding.
  • Build on the teacher's current science understanding, ability, and attitudes.
  • Incorporate ongoing reflection on the process and outcomes of understanding science through inquiry.

Best Teaching Practices

  • Inquiry

Time Frame

1 class period or approximately 45 minutes.


Locate a variety of chewing gums. Include gums with both natural sugar and artificial sweeteners, in order to compare the results.

Organize the participants in small groups of no more than 2 or 3. You will need one scale per team.

Have a supply of paper towels and/or liquid hand sanitizer.

You may choose to include wet wipe type napkins as well.


Stress to the participants to be conscious of proper gum disposal. Have waste containers available.


Ask participants (orally or in writing) to contrast teaching science by inquiry with other common methods, like expository teaching, conducting a demonstration, or cooperative learning.

Explanation of Science

Chewing gum is about 75% sugars and 25% gum base.

Science journals that feature gum:

  • Chem Matters, October 1993
  • Chem Matters, October 1994, has a "Bubblegum" article by Gail Marsella.
  • Chem Matters, December 2000 has an article, "Chewing Gum - Sticking to the Story" by Harold T. McKone that includes how forensic experts use chewing gum.

For interesting gum facts see:

Chewing gum improves memory:

How gum is made:

History of chewing gum:

Who was the first person to chew gum?

Ohaus Balance and Scales-Determine the percentage of sugar in chewing gum:

Glee Gum, Make your own chewing gum kits:

Stupid gum tricks and gum stories:


None available for this module.


See the links in the Explanation of Science section for ideas.

Lesson Implementation Template

Download Lesson Implementation Template: Word Document or PDF File


Take into consideration the diverse learning styles teachers as well as students have. Consider that you may have technical/confluent learners as well as precise/sequential learners of a variety of backgrounds. All of which interpret and process differently.


None available for this module.


Student Lesson Written by Mary Harris, Missouri Polymer Ambassador and Wayne Goates, Kansas Polymer Ambassador

Polymer Ambassador site: