Summary
Some of the flavoring in bubble gum is due to the sugar or other sweetener it contains. As gum is chewed, the sugar dissolves and is swallowed. After a piece of gum loses its sweetness, it can be left to dry at room temperature and then the difference between its initial (unchewed) mass and its chewed mass can be used to calculate the percentage of sugar in the gum. This demonstration experiment is used to generate new questions about gums and their ingredients, and students can then design and execute new experiments based on their own questions.Engineering Connection
When students design experiments to test their hypotheses, they are acting like scientists and engineers who are researching and devising new creations, everything from new devices to new cleaning products. Scientists practice engineering whenever they design new experiments to test hypotheses. Chemical engineers design and test all sorts of products in laboratories, everything from bubble gum to cough syrup to medicines to shampoo.
Learning Objectives
After this lesson, students should be able to:
 Describe why a control is important in a scientific experiment.
 Distinguish between variables and controls in a scientific experiment.
 Describe an experiment to determine whether sugarless gum loses as much mass after chewing as regular gum does.
More Curriculum Like This
Student chew a piece of gum until it loses its sweetness, and then leaves the gum to dry for several days before weighing it to determine the amount of mass lost. students work in groups to design and conduct new experiments based on questions of their own choosing.
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Educational Standards
Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K12 science,
technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.
All 100,000+ K12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN),
a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).
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.
Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.
All 100,000+ K12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).
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.
NGSS: Next Generation Science Standards  Science

Analyze and interpret data on the properties of substances before and after the substances interact to determine if a chemical reaction has occurred.
(Grades 6  8)
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This standard focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts Analyze and interpret data to determine similarities and differences in findings.Science knowledge is based upon logical and conceptual connections between evidence and explanations. Each pure substance has characteristic physical and chemical properties (for any bulk quantity under given conditions) that can be used to identify it.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. Macroscopic patterns are related to the nature of microscopic and atomiclevel structure.
Common Core State Standards  Math

Find a percent of a quantity as a rate per 100 (e.g., 30% of a quantity means 30/100 times the quantity); solve problems involving finding the whole, given a part and the percent.
(Grade 6)
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Use variables to represent two quantities in a realworld problem that change in relationship to one another; write an equation to express one quantity, thought of as the dependent variable, in terms of the other quantity, thought of as the independent variable. Analyze the relationship between the dependent and independent variables using graphs and tables, and relate these to the equation.
(Grade 6)
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Fluently add, subtract, multiply, and divide multidigit decimals using the standard algorithm for each operation.
(Grade 6)
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Represent and analyze quantitative relationships between dependent and independent variables.
(Grade 6)
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Display numerical data in plots on a number line, including dot plots, histograms, and box plots.
(Grade 6)
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Summarize numerical data sets in relation to their context, such as by:
(Grade 6)
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Describing the nature of the attribute under investigation, including how it was measured and its units of measurement.
(Grade 6)
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Decide whether two quantities are in a proportional relationship, e.g., by testing for equivalent ratios in a table or graphing on a coordinate plane and observing whether the graph is a straight line through the origin.
(Grade 7)
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Use proportional relationships to solve multistep ratio and percent problems.
(Grade 7)
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Construct and interpret scatter plots for bivariate measurement data to investigate patterns of association between two quantities. Describe patterns such as clustering, outliers, positive or negative association, linear association, and nonlinear association.
(Grade 8)
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Summarize, represent, and interpret data on a single count or measurement variable
(Grades 9  12)
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International Technology and Engineering Educators Association  Technology

Use data collected to analyze and interpret trends in order to identify the positive and negative effects of a technology.
(Grades 6  8)
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Modeling, testing, evaluating, and modifying are used to transform ideas into practical solutions.
(Grades 6  8)
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State Standards
North Carolina  Math

Fluently add, subtract, multiply, and divide multidigit decimals using the standard algorithm for each operation.
(Grade
6)
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Describing the nature of the attribute under investigation, including how it was measured and its units of measurement.
(Grade
6)
More Details
Do you agree with this alignment?

Represent and analyze quantitative relationships between dependent and independent variables.
(Grade
6)
More Details
Do you agree with this alignment?

Display numerical data in plots on a number line, including dot plots, histograms, and box plots.
(Grade
6)
More Details
Do you agree with this alignment?

Summarize numerical data sets in relation to their context, such as by:
(Grade
6)
More Details
Do you agree with this alignment?

Use variables to represent two quantities in a realworld problem that change in relationship to one another; write an equation to express one quantity, thought of as the dependent variable, in terms of the other quantity, thought of as the independent variable. Analyze the relationship between the dependent and independent variables using graphs and tables, and relate these to the equation.
(Grade
6)
More Details
Do you agree with this alignment?

Find a percent of a quantity as a rate per 100 (e.g., 30% of a quantity means 30/100 times the quantity); solve problems involving finding the whole, given a part and the percent.
(Grade
6)
More Details
Do you agree with this alignment?

Use proportional relationships to solve multistep ratio and percent problems.
(Grade
7)
More Details
Do you agree with this alignment?

Decide whether two quantities are in a proportional relationship, e.g., by testing for equivalent ratios in a table or graphing on a coordinate plane and observing whether the graph is a straight line through the origin.
(Grade
7)
More Details
Do you agree with this alignment?

Construct and interpret scatter plots for bivariate measurement data to investigate patterns of association between two quantities. Describe patterns such as clustering, outliers, positive or negative association, linear association, and nonlinear association.
(Grade
8)
More Details
Do you agree with this alignment?

Summarize, represent, and interpret data on a single count or measurement variable
(Grades
9 
12)
More Details
Do you agree with this alignment?
Introduction/Motivation
(Note to teacher: In most school curricula, students are asked to learn a lot about science, but rarely given the opportunity to do science. While they may learn a lot of content, they are seldom asked to generate their own questions about phenomena they observe around them, much less conduct controlled experiments aimed at answering those questions. However, in order to understand what the process of science is (and is not), it is important for students to be given opportunities to do the work of scientists.)
(Additionally, students are also rarely given the opportunity to chew gum in the classroom. However, the combination of handson activity and junk food is nearly irresistible to middle school students. Bubble gum, which is considered an illicit item in most schools, is an especially attractive material that can be used to teach the scientific method within the classroom.)
(Introduce the lesson by asking the class a few questions.) How long does the flavor last in your chewing gum? Have you ever wonder why gum loses its sweetness so quickly? Why is that? Does it seem like the gum gets smaller after you chew it? (Listen to a few ideas from students.) I would like you to do an experiment to test a hypothesis I have. This is my hypothesis: Sugar contributes to gum's flavor, and during chewing, the sugar is lost, which makes the gum get smaller as it loses its sweetness.
I will provide you with bubble gum and you will conduct the experiment. Are you ready? (Proceed to conduct the experiment, as described in the first part of the associated activity, Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor?)
Lesson Background and Concepts for Teachers
A quick read of the nutrition label on a typical pack of bubble gum shows that one piece has a mass of about 8 grams, and of that mass, about 6 grams is sugar. Sugar dissolves readily in water, and about equally well in saliva. Some of the flavor in gum is due to the sugar, which dissolves in saliva and is swallowed, never to be tasted again. Also, the size of a wad of gum decreases considerably in the first 10 or 15 minutes of chewing. This change in volume is due to that same loss of sugar.
In the case of sugarless gum, the sweetener is typically a synthetic compound known as sorbitol, which may be listed as "sugar alcohol" on the nutrition label. It occurs in about the same proportion as sugar in regular gum, and it also dissolves in saliva, reducing both volume and sweetness, just as the sugar in regular gum does.
Realize that although technically sweetness is considered a "flavor" quality, almost all of the taste of foods (including gum) comes from their smells and hence, aromas. In fact, "8090% of what we call flavor is olfactory, or smellbased." (Mary Roach, Gulp) Two pieces of gum, each with the same amount of sugar can taste dramatically different because of their different aromas. If your nose is congested so you cannot smell, you can observe sweet, salt, bitter, etc., tastes, but no aromas and hence, little real flavor. Challenge students to consider whether sugar and flavor are the same thing and what it is they are actually measuring in the associated activity experiment.
Associated Activities
 Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Sweetness?  Students conduct a teacherinitiated experiment to determine the amount of sugar in bubble gum, and then, based on questions that arise from it, design and conduct additional experiments to answer their own questions about the nature of gum.
Lesson Closure
After students have completed their experiments (in the associated activity), have them analyze their data by determining the amounts of mass lost from their gum and determining the percent of mass lost. Help them understand the percent of mass lost is the more important number, since the initial weights of the gum may not have been identical. Thus, if a larger piece of gum lost more mass than a smaller one, both may have had the same proportion of sugar all along. Only by calculating the percent of mass lost can we determine the relative proportions of sugar in different types of gum.
Next, have students prepare graphs of their results. Weights of gum before and after chewing can be shown in a bar graph, and the percentages of sugar in different types of gum can also be compared in bar graphs. If students conducted an experiment to see how the mass changes depending on how long the gum is chewed, they can show their results in an xy scatter plot, with mass (the dependent variable, since it depends on how long the gum was chewed) on the yaxis and time (the independent variable) on the xaxis.
Then have each group share its findings with the rest of the class. A good way to do this is for each group to prepare a poster. Scientists and engineers frequently use posters as an efficient and timely means of communicating with each other when they get together at meetings devoted to a particular topic. Their posters contain the same types of information that would be covered in a formal paper published in a scientific journal:
 descriptive title
 description of the methods used to conduct the experiment, including diagrams, as appropriate
 results of the experiment, shown in tables and graphs, and summarized in words
 conclusions drawn from the data
Give students a day or two of class time to prepare a "semiformal" poster to display in the classroom. Expect the posters to be formal in the sense that they give sufficient and objective reportings of the experiments, are neat, and use correct grammar and spelling. However, encourage students to express their creativity in the way they lay out and embellish their posters with color, graphics, font sizes, illustrations, etc., so they are successful in communicating to readers.
Because good poster preparation requires many components, all students have opportunities to contribute in ways that highlight their own particular strengths. When posters are done, have group present them to the rest of the class along with brief summaries of the results and conclusions. Encourage other students to ask questions and give feedback to the presenting group.
Assessment
Poster Presentations: Have teams graph and analyze their experimental data, and present their results and conclusions in poster format to share with the rest of the class, as described in the Lesson Closure section. Review their posters to gauge their comprehension of the subject matter and concepts.
Written WrapUp: As a concluding assignment, ask students to write answers to the following questions:
 Explain why a control should have been used in the initial gum experiment.
 Describe an experiment to determine whether sugarless gum loses as much mass after chewing as regular gum does.
Lesson Extension Activities
Assign students to conduct Internet or library research to discover some interesting history and facts about chewing gum, including how it is made by chemical engineers. For example, did you know that it is impossible to make chocolate gum?
Use this lesson as part of a unit on chemistry; it makes a good way to introduce the biochemically important sugars.
Contributors
Mary R. Hebrank, project writer and consultant, Duke UniversityCopyright
© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2004 Duke UniversitySupporting Program
Engineering KPhD Program, Pratt School of Engineering, Duke UniversityAcknowledgements
This content was developed by the MUSIC (Math Understanding through Science Integrated with Curriculum) Program in the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University under National Science Foundation GK12 grant no. DGE 0338262. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the NSF, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.
This lesson and its associated activity were originally published, in slightly modified form, by Duke University's Center for Inquiry Based Learning (CIBL). Please visit http://www.ciblearning.org/ for information about CIBL and other resources for K12 science and math teachers.
The basic idea and method of this lesson and activity, although much modified here, originated in an article by high school teacher Louis Gotlib that was published in a newsletter of the North Carolina Science Teachers Association. "Finding the Percentage of Sugar in Gum" first appeared in NCSTA Teaching Notes #5, 1997.
Last modified: April 11, 2018
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