Simple Science Experiment: Fingerprints - MetroFamily Magazine
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Simple Science Experiment: Fingerprints

by Steve Davala

Reading Time: 2 minutes 

No two fingerprints are exactly the same. Have you ever heard that? These little creases on your fingers and toes are unique to you, having been formed when you were still developing inside your mom. Even though they are unique, there are three main types of fingerprints: the loop, the arch, and the whorl. The loop comes in from one side and back the same, the arch comes from one side and goes up then back down to the other side, and a whorl is a bunch of circles. There are variations, but these are the main types. 

In this experiment, you will be collecting your own fingerprints and classifying them. You can even collect your family’s or friends if you want to compare them to yours. 


A few pencils, scratch paper, clear scotch tape


Begin by rubbing your pencil back and forth in a small area of a piece of paper

Use the left thumb and rub it on the pencil markings

Take a small piece of tape and place it over your thumb

Peel it off and then put it on a labeled table like the one below

Repeat with the other fingers

Use the picture guide to help you identify which types you have

Wash up when done (or you’ll get pencil everywhere)

Number of each: 

Loops: _________    Arches: _________    Whorls: __________

Explanation: How many of each kind did you have? Don’t be upset if you don’t have a particular type, in fact arches are the rarest in the world. Only 5% of people have them. Loops are the most common, followed by whorls and then arches. 

Did you know that fingerprints are useful for many reasons? Mainly they are used for police records in case they are needed to identify people for crimes. The first time fingerprints were used and recorded in this way was back in 1892!

Experiment further: 

Did you get a chance to fingerprint your family? Is there a relationship between the number you have and your mom’s or dad’s? How about your sibling? Maybe now you can finally catch your parents stealing your Halloween candy…

Steve Davala is a high school chemistry and physics teacher who likes to write. He’s got two kids of his own and subjects them to these science activities as guinea pigs. Follow him on Twitter @sdavala or email him at 

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