The Cookie Dilemma Chapter 21 Everyday Physical Science Mysteries

Richard Konicek-Moran
Type Category
Assessment Materials Instructional Materials
Lesson/Lesson Plan , Assessment Item
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.



This lesson invites students to plan an investigation and use their collective knowledge to identify individual substances in a “mystery mix.”

The resource includes a story that provides context and relevance for students as they conduct an investigation to determine which substances are present in each bowl. Students plan and conduct their own investigation while applying their understanding of physical and chemical changes.

The resource can be integrated into a lesson sequence exploring changes to matter or as a summative performance task after students have had the opportunity to participate in other investigations around the concept of mixing substances. This resource may also be used as a supplement to the reviewed resource, “Taking the Mystery Out of Argumentation”.  


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-PS1-4 Conduct an investigation to determine whether the mixing of two or more substances results in new substances.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: none

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 lesson could serve as a summative performance task where students apply what they learned from previously investigating mystery powders and mixtures. The story and the dilemma provide anchoring phenomenon for this lesson. Suggested probing questions include: How were Cerise and Barbara able to determine which bowl contained baking soda? What changes did they see? Some additional questions might be : Will Cerise and Barbara be able to determine which bowl contained baking soda? How will they do this? What plan could they have? How will you create a step-by-step plan to help you decide? The outcome would be for students to plan and conduct an investigation to determine whether flour, baking soda and sugar were included in each of the dry ingredient mixtures. In preparation for this investigation, teachers will need to prepare two bowls of cookie ingredients, one with and one without baking soda. A review of the different Mystery Powder investigations would be beneficial to scaffold this task for struggling students.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
It is recommended that students work in partners and record their experimental design plan for whichever substance they are testing for in their science notebooks. Each plan should include a question, a prediction, experimental design plan, and a way to record their data. When using heat and other chemicals it is recommended that students wear gloves and eye protection.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Students should offer evidence to support their claims in science notebooks. Examples include: "I think Bowl A has baking soda because when I added vinegar to the mixture a change, a chemical reaction occurred. I know this because there was a fizzing reaction." or "when the substance was placed under magnification, the crystalline structures of sugar were observed and identified."

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
Cause and effect will be addressed through investigation of changes to the baking soda. To reinforce this crosscutting concept it is recommended that the teacher might also probe for cause and effect relationships as students conduct their investigations with the other substances as well.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Through this resource, students will plan and conduct investigations, apply their understanding of chemical reactions, and identify the cause and effect relationships that explain the changes they will observe as they determine a solution to the dilemma. This resource could be used either as instruction or as a performance assessment.

  • Instructional Supports: Although there are no instructional supports included, the resource does engage students in a meaningful scenario that provides a purpose for learning. It develops understanding of the Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas and Crosscutting Concepts by identifying and building on students’ prior knowledge. Encouraging students to determine how they will record their findings collaboratively strengthens the resource. Teachers can support the exploration of heat's effect on the matter in each bowl by "baking" the ingredients from each bowl, with and without the baking soda. Students could predict what they think each batch will look like- using illustrations. They could compare what they have expressed, with the results they observe with both batches that were baked. Opportunities for students to express, clarify, interpret and represent their ideas as well as respond to teacher and peer feedback need to be made more explicit. Suggestions for differentiated instruction are also not provided. It is recommended that the teacher have one student record ideas and the other draws or share photographs of changes that have occurred. When the lesson is over, students might compare/contrast the similarities and differences between lessons. They could reflect on ways the first lesson prepared them for or assisted them with their plan for the "Cookie Dilemma" lesson. If students do this during literacy or even science time specific Common Core standards addressed could be noted.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: This resource would make a a very appropriate summative assessment for “determining whether the mixtures of two or more substances result in a new substance.” If implemented as such, this resource would elicit direct, observable evidence of students’ performance of the practices connected with their understanding of the Disciplinary Core Ideas and the Crosscutting Concepts. A scoring criteria checklist or rubric should be developed. Formative assessment should be occurring throughout the investigations and student to student science talks. The teacher should use the information gained from ongoing, embedded assessments to enhance student learning and provide additional assistance or extensions as needed.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource does not include a technologically interactive component.