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Cooling Liquid
Task with Student Directions
Contributed by: Oregon State Department of Education


In the initial investigation, we are going to measure the rate at which hot water cools in a paper coffee cup.



Paper Coffee Cup, Hot Water, Thermometer, Data Table and Graph Paper



  1. Read the following procedure and create a data table that will record all of the required information.
  2. Obtain a paper coffee cup and fill it with hot water. Record the temperature of the hot water. Record the temperature of the room.
  3. Return to your desk and begin taking temperature measurements of the hot water. Take temperature measurement every 10 seconds. One person should read the thermometer and another should write the data in the data table.
  4. 3a. Take temperature measurements for 10 minutes, or until the cooling rate has been constant for 2 or more minutes.

    3b. Record any observations or "inquiry - what if…?" questions.

  5. Measure the volume of water in the cup. Dispose of water and return cup and thermometer to back table.
  6. Graph your data.



  1. Describe how the cooling rate of the coffee changed over time.
  2. What factors do you believe can influence the cooling rate of the coffee?
  3. Which factors will help keep the coffee hot, which factors will cool the coffee faster?
  4. What would be the final temperature of the water? Why?



Inquiry Prompt

"Coffee, espressos, and lattes have become more and more popular in the Pacific Northwest. Keeping coffee hot has become important to a lot of companies. What things affect how long coffee stays hot?


Your assignment is to investigate a factor that may contribute to the cooling rate of coffee. You should pick a question that will be possible to investigate and obtain quantitative data.


Your report shall include (you should use the scoring guide) information that will meet the criteria for a 4 in the following categories:

  • Framing the Investigation
  • Designing the Investigation
  • Collecting and Presenting of Data
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Results



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