Materials List: Name That Metal!

Each group needs:

  • 10-15 pieces each of copper, aluminum, zinc, iron or brass (one type per group) in a variety of shapes and forms, such as iron, aluminum and copper nails, solid brass grommets, aluminum washers and/or spacers, zinc metal rings (such as these 5-in zinc rings at, etc.; see the note below for additional suggestions and tips
  • (optional, recommended) black spray paint
  • small cardboard box, such as a shoebox or similar/smaller box, to hold the metal pieces
  • electronic balance (digital scale)
  • calculator
  • Name That Metal! Information Sheet, one per student
  • (optional) computer with Microsoft Excel® or similar software with graphing capabilities

Suggestions and tips about the metal samples:

  • Make sure each metal piece is entirely one type of metal, for example, made of solid brass, not brass coated.
  • Ask for help at hardware and jewelry stores to find a good variety of small, inexpensive pieces of copper, aluminum, zinc, iron and brass with different masses, shapes, densities and colors.
  • Make sure the metal pieces have no dangerously sharp edges. You can warn students to be careful about pointed nails and screws.
  • It is recommended that you paint all the metal pieces black, so students are unable to identify them by color, especially the copper and brass.
  • Other types of metals may be used for this activity, but the facts provided on the Name That Metal! Information Sheet pertain to only the five metals suggested in the Materials List.

To share with the entire class:

  • rulers
  • graduated cylinders, various sizes
  • (optional) magnets
  • access to water
  • Name That Metal! Presentation, a Microsoft PowerPoint® file
  • projector, to show the presentation to the class