Question Sheet: Popping to Perfection


Before reading:

  1. What makes good popcorn? 
  2. Why do you think people like to eat popcorn?

During reading:

  1. Where in the United States is popcorn an important crop? 
  2. What makes a kernel of corn good popping corn? 
  3. What are the two main shapes into which popped corn can pop? 
  4. How would coating popcorn kernels with fat help increase the number of kernels that pop when heated? 
  5. What changes take place in the cellulose of a popcorn kernel’s outer shell when the kernel is heated? 
  6. How might studies of popcorn be helpful for improving other food products?

After reading:

  1. Design an experiment comparing the “poppability” of different brands of popcorn. Specify how you would define “poppability.” What sorts of measurements would you make? 
  2. Besides increasing the proportion of kernels that pop when heated, what

    other improvements do you think could be made to popcorn? 

  3. Many people in food science are interested in the debate over “genetically

    modified food.” What does this term mean? What is the debate about? See How do you think it might relate to popcorn? 

  4. To study the structure of a popcorn kernel, what sort of equipment do you think scientists might use? 
  5. Do you think there might be a way to control what shape of popped corn you

    would get? Why or why not? 

  6. Explain how a pressure cooker works. See How is this related to the way popcorn pops? 
  7. Name two foods besides popcorn that you think science could improve. Why?


Take a look at the history of popcorn at (U.S. Department of Agriculture). In what parts of the world was popcorn first grown?

What evidence is there for these early uses of popcorn?


  1. Create labeling for a package that contains a new, scientifically improved

    popcorn that produces no unpopped kernels. What would you put on the front of

    the package? What sort of instructions would you provide on the back? Include a

    brief explanation of the science that led to the improvement. 

  2. Create a question sheet for fifth-grade students about popcorn. What sorts of questions would you ask? Make up a short quiz or puzzle involving popcorn.

    For an example, see (Popcorn Board).


A popcorn company decided to include a colored marker in each popcorn box as a prize. It placed markers of six different colors into the boxes, one marker per box. The company used the same number of markers of each different color. About how many boxes of popcorn would you need to buy to have a 50:50 chance of getting a complete set of six pens, each one a different color?