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In this chemistry activity, learners discover that the weight of the product of combustion is greater than that of the starting material. Learners will compare the weight of steel wool before and after it is heated. Learners are asked to consider why the steel wool weighs more (oxidation) as well as write the balanced chemical equation for the burning of steel. This activity uses an open flame; adult supervision is recommended. The resource includes notes for educators and extension ideas.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per group of students)

  • aluminum pie pan
  • balance
  • (uncoated extra-course) steel wool
  • Bunsen burner or LPG burner
  • crucible tongs or corn-on-the-cob tongs


  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
    • Measurement
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Reactions
      • Oxidation-Reduction Reactions
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Mass and Weight
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access with registration