Cookie Crumbles- Uncovering Student Ideas in Science, Volume 1: 25 Formative Assessment Probes (PDF e-book)

Page Keeley, Francis Eberle, Joyce Tugel
Type Category
Instructional Materials Assessment Materials
Assessment Item , Instructor Guide/Manual
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



Students are presented with 4 possibilities about what happens to the weight of a cookie when it is broken. They are asked to choose one and then explain their thinking. The intent of this formative assessment probe is to determine student understanding around conservation of matter using everyday items such as cookies and inform the direction of classroom instruction based on students' responses.

Intended Audience

- none -
Educational Level
  • Grade 5
Access Restrictions

Available for purchase - The right to view, keep, and/or download material upon payment of a one-time fee.

Performance Expectations

5-PS1-2 Measure and graph quantities to provide evidence that regardless of the type of change that occurs when heating, cooling, or mixing substances, the total weight of matter is conserved.

Clarification Statement: Examples of reactions or changes could include phase changes, dissolving, and mixing that form new substances.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include distinguishing mass and weight.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This probe could be introduced as a teacher demonstration where students see the whole cookie and then watch the teacher break the cookie. It it important students understand that all of the crumbs would be weighed. This provides a context for students as they grapple with the question regarding the cookie crumble mass. If students are not familiar or initially comfortable with sharing their thinking (be they ideas and/or diagrams) have students crumble their papers and toss it to someone sitting near them in the circle. Perform this three times so students are exposed to several other students ideas and not just one. Students may also share responses to their classmates' work on the papers. This method can be a fun break from usual classroom share-outs and will be more inclusive to less vocal learners. Teachers might extend the lesson by recording the number of votes for each response to either demonstrate or have students create a graphical representation of the data.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
After students have completed the formative assessment, teachers should use the data to address uncovered student misconceptions while carrying out the cookie crumble investigation or similar conservation of mass investigation. To explicitly practice their mathematical and computational thinking skills, students should be provided the opportunity to measure and record the weight for the whole cookies and then crumbled cookies. Students may need to be provided with instructional supports that aid students in computing several small mass amounts to then compare to their recorded whole cookie weight. Students might also better meet the practice by creating a bar graph comparing the weight of the crumbled cookies to the whole cookie. Teachers should note that common elementary scales and balances may not be able to accurately measure the weight of very small pieces of cookie. It may be in the teachers interest to explicitly state the cookies be broken into no more than three or four pieces so that each pieces weight may be recorded. Follow up all data collection and graphing with an opportunity for students to share their findings and determine whether or not their results support their thinking at the start of the probe. Provide students opportunity to challenge their own thinking and one another's thinking and discuss possible reasons for differences in data.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
To more fully address this core idea, students will need multiple opportunities to grapple with the concept of conservation of matter. The resource itself contains a section titled "Curricular and Instructional Considerations" and some suggestions for moving student learning forward. These ideas include having students use Legos or Unifix cubes to build a structure, count the number of pieces, rebuild into a different shape and ask if the weight has changed and whether any pieces were lost or gained. Students will need to investigate "transitions in which (matter) seems to vanish" such as dissolving sugars and salts into solution to address the full disciplinary core idea.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Teachers can best meet this crosscutting concept by explicitly drawing attention to and having students use standard units of mass while conducting this and other conservation of matter investigations. Guide students to give ideas about objects that they could weigh, first by breaking them down, and then recording data. Class could share their ideas on a class list, then possibly vote on the most viable suggestions.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This formative assessment explicitly uses NGSS practices and disciplinary core ideas. Suggested tips for included direct instruction around the crosscutting concept of using standard units when measuring raises the potential for the resource to better meet all three dimensions.

  • Instructional Supports: The resource includes explicit purpose and context for the probe's use and connections to the Benchmarks for Scientific literacy and NRC standards. It includes a section titled, "Curricular and Instructional Considerations" and "Suggestions for Instruction and Assessment" providing suggestions for relevant phenomena to investigate further along with ways for students to express, clarify, justify, interpret, and represent their ideas.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The resource is a formative assessment assessment that can be used to elicit students initial ideas about conservation of matter. It includes a section titled, "Suggestions for Instruction and Assessment" that provides guidance for interpreting student performance and how to planning instruction and provide feedback given students answers. This resource could be used early on when first investigating conservation of mass and the use of standardized units and later revisited as a post assessment asking students to explain how their thinking did or did not change.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: If students use scales and other electronic devices to explore weight and graph the results electronically the interactivity of technology could be enhanced.