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Rocks and Minerals
Minerals



Minerals
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   high interest, readability grades 5 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.57

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    cleavage, feldspar, glassy, inorganic, silicon, luster, characteristic, hardness, magma, calcite, talc, solution, identify, metallic, carbon, cooler


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Minerals
By Patti Hutchison
  

1     Minerals. They are all around us. We eat them, wear them, and build with them. What is a mineral? How are they identified? What can we do with them?
 
2     Earth's crust is made of about three thousand minerals. Only about thirty of them are common to us. A mineral is a solid with certain properties. First, it must occur in nature. Minerals are "found," not made by humans.
 
3     Second, a mineral is inorganic. This means that it has never been living.
 
4     Another characteristic of a mineral is that it has a definite set of elements that make it up. It must also have the structure of a crystal.
 
5     A crystal is a solid. Its atoms are arranged in repeating patterns. Snowflakes are a type of crystal. You may also have seen ice crystals form on the grass when there is a frost. These are examples of what crystals look like. They are also examples of minerals.
 
6     There are two major ways minerals are formed. Some are formed from magma. You know that magma is liquid rock far below the Earth's surface. Sometimes magma is forced up into the cooler layers of the Earth. The elements in the magma form crystals when they cool. If magma cools quickly, the crystals in the mineral will be small. If it cools slowly, the crystals will be large.
 
7     Minerals also form from solutions. A solution can become saturated. It can't hold any more of whatever is dissolved in it. Elements begin to "fall out" of it. These elements form minerals. Sometimes, the liquid in the solution is evaporated. Minerals are left behind.
 
8     Minerals are sorted into groups. One group is called silicates. They are made of oxygen and silicon. These are the two most common elements in the Earth's crust. Feldspar and quartz are the two most common minerals. They are examples of silicates.

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