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Reactivity Series

In this worksheet, students will answer the question "why would it be a bad idea to build a bridge from sodium metal?" by looking closely at the reactivity series.

'Reactivity Series' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 3

Curriculum topic:  Chemistry: Materials

Curriculum subtopic:  Metals and Carbon in Reactivity Series

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

By reacting metals with oxygen, acids and water, scientists have been able to construct a table of metals, listing them in order from the most to the least reactive.

 

This table is called the reactivity series:

 

 

The metals at the top are so reactive that they can even set on fire or explode when stored in water. They also tarnish (go dull) very quickly when exposed to air.

 

The picture below shows the explosive reaction produced when potassium is placed in water:

 

Potassium in water

 

Metals near the bottom of the series are unreactive. Platinum, for example, will not corrode in air or react with acids. This makes it an ideal metal to make jewellery from as it will not tarnish or be damaged by chemicals.

 

The picture below shows jewellery made from platinum.

Rings - stock photo


The reactivity series may seem complicated, but there is an easy way to remember it, using this simple pneumonic (or you can make up your own!).

 

Police Sergeant Charlie MACZITL Has Caught Me Stealing Gold Plates 

 

Burglar

In which order does the reactivity series list metals?

they are not in a specific order

least reactive to most reactive

aphabetical order

most reactive to least reactive

Place the metals in the correct order of reactivity by comparing their reactivity to aluminium (i.e. are they more reactive than aluminium or less reactive?).

Column A

Column B

potassium
more reactive
copper
more reactive
magnesium
less reactive
gold
more reactive
sodium
less reactive

Place the metals in the correct order of reactivity by comparing their reactivity to iron (are they more reactive than iron or less reactive?).

Column A

Column B

calcium
more reactive
mercury
less reactive
zinc
less reactive
lead
more reactive
silver
less reactive

Which of the following metals is most likely to react with water?

copper

sodium

silver

gold

Which of the following would not be a suitable material to use in the manufacture of jewellery? Tick three boxes.

magnesium

copper

calcium

silver

aluminium

What term is used to describe a metal that has become dull due to its reaction with air or other substances?

old

pitted

tarnished

Which THREE of the following did scientists react elements with in order to produce the reactivity series?

 

water

helium

nitrogen

oxygen

acid

Place these two metals in order of reactivity from the highest to the lowest. 

 Most ReactiveLeast Reactive
Lead
Silver

Place the metals in the correct order of reactivity by comparing their reactivity to copper.

Column A

Column B

silver
less reactive
mercury
more reactive
lead
less reactive
gold
less reactive
hydrogen
more reactive

The reactivity series is used, as you have seen, to extract metals from their ores.  This is often done by using a more reactive element, like carbon, to react with the ore and so leave the metal, like iron, on its own.

 

This sort of reaction has many other uses too and the reactivity series can be used to predict what will happen.

 

Another example is the thermite reaction which is used to weld steel railway rails together.  This is the reaction between iron oxide and the metal aluminium.  The reaction is highly exothermic (gives out heat) and the iron produced is in the molten state. This molten iron can then be used to mend broken railway tracks, as can be seen in the picture below:

 

Thermite reaction welding rails

 

Look at this reaction again and then use that information to place aluminium and iron in their correct order in the reactivity series.

 

Column A

Column B

silver
less reactive
mercury
more reactive
lead
less reactive
gold
less reactive
hydrogen
more reactive
  • Question 1

In which order does the reactivity series list metals?

CORRECT ANSWER
most reactive to least reactive
EDDIE SAYS
The metals are listed according to their reactivity, with the most reactive at the top and the least reactive at the bottom.
  • Question 2

Place the metals in the correct order of reactivity by comparing their reactivity to aluminium (i.e. are they more reactive than aluminium or less reactive?).

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

potassium
more reactive
copper
less reactive
magnesium
more reactive
gold
less reactive
sodium
more reactive
EDDIE SAYS
Have another look at the reactivity series and familiarise yourself with the order:
  • Question 3

Place the metals in the correct order of reactivity by comparing their reactivity to iron (are they more reactive than iron or less reactive?).

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

calcium
more reactive
mercury
less reactive
zinc
more reactive
lead
less reactive
silver
less reactive
EDDIE SAYS
Calcium and zinc are more reactive than iron, but mercury, lead and silver are less reactive. If you use the pneumonic or made up your own you probably found this question straight forward!
  • Question 4

Which of the following metals is most likely to react with water?

CORRECT ANSWER
sodium
EDDIE SAYS
Sodium is very reactive and alights (sets on fire) when placed in water, to produce hydrogen gas and a bright yellow flame.
  • Question 5

Which of the following would not be a suitable material to use in the manufacture of jewellery? Tick three boxes.

CORRECT ANSWER
magnesium
calcium
aluminium
EDDIE SAYS
Silver and copper have been used for many thousands of years to manufacture jewellery because of their appearance and low reactivity. The others are all way too reactive and so would tarnish or corrode and so not look all that sparkly!
  • Question 6

What term is used to describe a metal that has become dull due to its reaction with air or other substances?

CORRECT ANSWER
tarnished
EDDIE SAYS
Metals that become dull when exposed to air are described as being tarnished. Potassium metal is a bright silver when cut but tarnishes in seconds when exposed to air because it is so reactive.
  • Question 7

Which THREE of the following did scientists react elements with in order to produce the reactivity series?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
water
oxygen
acid
EDDIE SAYS
Helium and nitrogen are very unreactive gases and would have no effect on any metals. The others are not only readily available and cheap but because they are an oxide (water) or a salt (acids) or pure oxygen, this can be used to measure an element's ability to combine with oxygen or to make a salt.
  • Question 8

Place these two metals in order of reactivity from the highest to the lowest. 

CORRECT ANSWER
 Most ReactiveLeast Reactive
Lead
Silver
EDDIE SAYS
Although lead is fairly unreactive, it does tarnish whereas silver generally retains its sparkle!
  • Question 9

Place the metals in the correct order of reactivity by comparing their reactivity to copper.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

silver
less reactive
mercury
less reactive
lead
more reactive
gold
less reactive
hydrogen
more reactive
EDDIE SAYS
Hydrogen is the only non-metal that is often included in the reactivity series.
  • Question 10

The reactivity series is used, as you have seen, to extract metals from their ores.  This is often done by using a more reactive element, like carbon, to react with the ore and so leave the metal, like iron, on its own.

 

This sort of reaction has many other uses too and the reactivity series can be used to predict what will happen.

 

Another example is the thermite reaction which is used to weld steel railway rails together.  This is the reaction between iron oxide and the metal aluminium.  The reaction is highly exothermic (gives out heat) and the iron produced is in the molten state. This molten iron can then be used to mend broken railway tracks, as can be seen in the picture below:

 

Thermite reaction welding rails

 

Look at this reaction again and then use that information to place aluminium and iron in their correct order in the reactivity series.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
So, how does the reaction go? Iron oxide and aluminium are added together - they are the reactants. What is the product that welds rails together? Molten iron. So iron oxide has been changed to iron through its reaction with aluminium, which is clearly more reactive.
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