Reactivity of Metals

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The students will develop their own activity series of metals based on lab results. Qualitative observations will be used. Tie-ins include single-replacement reactions (SRR), oxidation reduction, practical applications such as galvanization, and predicting reactions. Students work in teams to determine the relative reactivity of six different metals in a solution of copper sulfate.

Created by CRISP via the Materials and Manufacturing Summer Teachers’ Institute. Adapted from ASM International


Oxidation reduction, Properties of materials, Metals


  • Students will be able to: generate evidence regarding the corrosion of metals
  • Students will be able to: rank metals in terms of their resistance to corrosion
    • Basic results: changes in metal color and texture, bubbles, and changes in color of corrosion agent
    • Advanced consideration: changes in mass, temperature of corrosion solution,
  • Students will be able to: draw conclusions regarding which metal(s) would be best for
    • Human implantation (as a staple, artificial femur, etc.)
    • Cathodic protection of metals structures (advanced)

Materials in this kit:

  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Glass stirring rod
  • Test tube rack with six test tubes
  • Small samples of 6 different metals:
    • Zinc
    • Lead
    • Aluminum
    • Tin
    • Magnesium
    • Iron
  • Copper sulfate to make solution (0.2 M works well and instructions are included)
  • 500 mL Beaker

Suggestions for the Teacher:

Students should know how to identify different elements using the periodic table and have (at least) a basic understanding of how to use their senses to derive qualitative observations

You may choose to perform this as a demonstration, rather than allowing students to do it as a hands-on activity.


  • Students should not ingest the chemicals.
  • Students should wear gloves while handling chemicals.
  • Students should be supervised when doing this activity.

Additional Resources:

Reactivity of Metals teacher module
Reactivity of Metals CRISP aligned standards
Reactivity of Metals Guide from ASM International

STEM Careers:


NGSS Performance Tasks:

MS-PS1-2 Matter and its Interactions

  • Analyze and interpret data on the properties of substances before and after the substances interact to determine if a chemical reaction has occurred.

HS-PS1-2 Matter and its Interactions

  • Construct and revise an explanation for the outcome of a simple chemical reaction based on the outermost electron states of atoms, trends in the periodic table, and knowledge of the patterns of chemical properties.
NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas:

MS - PS1.B: Chemical Reactions

Substances react chemically in characteristic ways. In a chemical process, the atoms that make up the original substances are regrouped into different molecules, and these new substances have different properties from those of the reactants.

MS – ETS1 Engineering Design

Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.

HS-PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter

Use mathematical representations to support the claim that atoms, and therefore mass, are conserved during a chemical reaction.
HS – ETS1 Engineering Design

Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.

NGSS Cross-Cutting Concepts:

MS CC 3 - Scale, Proportion, and Quantity

  • Time, space, and energy phenomena can be observed at various scales using models to study systems that are too large or too small.

HS CC1 - Patterns

  • Different patterns may be observed at each of the scales at which a system is studied and can provide evidence for causality in explanations of phenomena.
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices:

MS SEP 2 – Developing and Using Models

  • Develop a model to predict and/or describe phenomena.
  • Analyze and interpret data to determine similarities and differences in findings.

HS SEP 3 – Planning and Carrying out an investigation

  • Plan and conduct an investigation individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, and in the design: decide on types, how much, and accuracy of data needed to produce reliable measurements and consider limitations on the precision of the data (e.g., number of trials, cost, risk, time), and refine the design accordingly.
  • Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.

Suggested Video(s):