Matter is the physical stuff that everything around us is generally made of. Trees, birds, water, etc., are all examples of matter. Since almost everything is considered matter, scientists have naturally found ways to classify matter to better understand it.
Types of Matter
One way matter is classified whether it is a pure substance or a mixture. A pure substance is a substance that has the same properties throughout out it. An example of a pure substance would be salt or sugar. Both of the substances are only made of salt or sugar, and the properties of these two substances are the same if you have one or the other in a sample.
On the other hand, a mixture is a combination of two or more substances. For example, if you have salt and pepper inside the same shaker, this is a mixture. This is because separating the salt and the pepper from each other is possible. Separating pure substances is generally not possible physically. However, pure substances can further be broken down into elements and compounds.
Elements are fundamental substances that cannot be broken down into simpler substances. The periodic table contains all known elements. Examples include oxygen, sodium, carbon, etc. Compounds are pure substances that are made of two or more elements. Compound examples include salt, sugar, carbon dioxide, etc.
More on Mixtures
Returning to mixtures, there are two types of mixtures: homogenous and heterogeneous. Homogenous mixtures have the same composition throughout the sample. Examples include milk and sugar water. In both of these examples, the substances that make up the mixture are evenly spread throughout the sample.
Heterogeneous mixtures have different compositions in parts of the sample. A classic example of this is salad dressing. When salad dressing is allowed to sit, it separates clearly into the various substances/homogenous mixture that it is made up of. This is why salad dressing must be shaken before it is enjoyed.
Law of mass conservation
Antoine Lauren de Lavoisier developed the law of mass conservation, which states that in any chemical or physical process, the total mass of everything involved must remain the same. This means that if you start with 5 kg of wood and burn it, there will still be 5kg of matter in a different form. You might see a pile of ashes that weighs less but what happens is that some of the matter was converted to gases and smoke in the burning process. Essentially, matter can be created or destroyed but can only be converted or broken down.
No pun intended, but matter matters. For students, it is important to develop an understanding of concepts related to chemistry. Doing so may help at least some of them prepare for whatever occupation they may have in the future.