Curricular Unit: Mixtures and Solutions

Contributed by: Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Colorado Boulder

Three side-by-side images show that NaCl and H2O = table salt and water, as shown by images of the atomic structures of NaCl and H2O, a shaker of common table salt and water from a faucet filling a drinking glass.
Students explore mixtures and solutions.
Copyright © (atom) U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management; (salt shaker) U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health; (faucet) U.S. Bureau of Reclamation


Through three lessons and their four associated activities, students are introduced to concepts related to mixtures and solutions. Students consider how mixtures and solutions—and atoms and molecules—can influence new technologies developed by engineers. To begin, students explore the fundamentals of atoms and their structures. The building blocks of matter (protons, electrons, neutrons) are covered in detail. The next lesson examines the properties of elements and the periodic table—one method of organization for the elements. The concepts of physical and chemical properties are also reviewed. Finally, the last lesson introduces the properties of mixtures and solutions. A comparison of different mixtures and solutions, their properties and their separation qualities are explored.
This engineering curriculum meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Engineers apply their understanding of the properties of matter to decide what materials to use when creating and designing new things. And, they use their knowledge of mixtures and solutions when designing new synthetic materials for a multitude of purposes. Imagination has no bounds, and as technology advances and researchers learn more about the building blocks of matter, innovative technologies move from imagination to reality.

Engineers understand the properties of metals, whether they may bend or not bend, expand, contract, or withstand forces under certain circumstances—all important factors to consider when designing and creating the devices, structures and human-made objects we depend upon. Furthermore, engineers take advantage of the chemical properties of different elements as they develop mixtures and substances for medicines, materials and cleaning solutions, among the thousands upon thousands of other products that we use in our lives every day.

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Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

  • Conduct an investigation to determine whether the mixing of two or more substances results in new substances. (Grade 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Develop models to describe the atomic composition of simple molecules and extended structures. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
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Unit Schedule


See individual lessons and activities.


© 2009 by Regents of the University of Colorado

Supporting Program

Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Colorado Boulder


The contents of these digital library curricula were developed under grants from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), U.S. Department of Education, and the National Science Foundation (GK-12 grant no. 0338326). However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the U.S. Department of Education or National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: November 16, 2016