Mystery Elements


Most of the earth's crust is made up of only 8 elements which are referred to as "the most abundant elements of the earth's crust." In this activity students will identify these 8 elements by using a set of given clues about the "mystery elements."


Students should be familiar with the following:

  • Structure of an Atom
  • Bohr models Click on any element symbol to view Bohr diagram.
  • Atomic and Mass number
  • Development of the Periodic Table of Elements
  • How to interpret the Periodic Table of Elements
  • The Periodic Table Challenge


    Students will be able to do the following after completing this lesson:

  • Access and use the Internet to perform research
  • Use any given information about a certain element to identify it
  • Develop a data table to record information
  • Convert percentages to degrees
  • Develop a model of an atom
  • Create a visual representation of data in a circle graph
  • Form a conclusion from recorded data


  • Access to the Internet
  • Drawing program (optional)
  • Data Table to Record Information (see below)
  • List of "mystery element" clues (see below)
  • Periodic Table (and related information) WEB SITES (see below)

    "Mystery Element Clues"

    I have 20 electrons and four energy levels.
    I am a member of the "alkaline earth metals" family. I also have 12 neutrons.
    I am the only gas in my family and I have 8 electrons.
    I have a total of 14 neutrons. I also have a valence of 3.
    I am one of the most reactive elements on the periodic table and I have four energy levels.
    I am a transition metal with 30 neutrons and 26 electrons.
    I have 3 energy levels and belong to the "alkali metals family."
    I belong to the same family as Sn and am also called a "metalloid."
    Who are we


    If computers are not available, library references and common classroom materials can be used to complete this lesson.

    1. Complete the Data Table below for each "mystery clue" using provided links.
    2. Draw or create 3D models of each of the elements' atoms.
    3. Convert the percentages to degrees and create a circle graph.
    4. Use the provided links to answer the questions.
    5. Write your conclusion according to the LAB WRITE-UP sheet in your journal.
    6. Create an appropriate, colorful, and attractive cover sheet to be stapled to and turned in with this lab.

    Data Table

    Letter of Mystery Element Atomic Number Mass Number Protons Electrons Neutrons Element Name Element % in Crust

    Observation Questions:

    1. What is the state of matter of the most abundant earth element? What inferences can be made from this observation?
    2. What group does the second most abundant element belong to? metal, nonmetal, metalloid? Describe the general characteristics of this group of elements?
    3. Explain why quartz is the most abundant earth mineral? Hint: you need to know its chemical formula.
    4. Which element is found in the ore bauxite? / hematite? What properties do each of these metals have that make them so useful to man?
    5. Categorize the remaining elements into their respective families. Based on the characteristics of each family, what inferences can you make about their abundancy in the crust?

      Scoring Rubric
      Lab Writeup Data Table Atom Drawings Circle Graph Questions Total Points
      20 pts. 20 pts. 20 pts. 20 pts. 20 pts. 100

      • 20 pts.- ALL Data is Complete and Accurate
      • 15 pts. - MOST data is complete and accurate, however, a few mistakes were made
      • 10 pts. - SOME mistakes were made, data lacks completeness and/or accuracy
      • 5 pts. - MANY mistakes were made, almost totally incomplete and/or inaccurate
      • 0 pts. - NO attempt was made to complete this section and/or totally inaccurate

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