Big Ideas at ChemEd X

Shultz's JCE article

In the article “Reactions Catalyzed by an Assault on a Favorite Principle”1, Emeric Schultz (who incidentally taught me General Chemistry, was my undergraduate advisor, and is now a dear friend and colleague) argues the following:

“Although I have read and heard about ‘big ideas’ in chemistry, I have never seen a commensurate effort to work toward a high school chemistry program that starts from…big ideas and works down.”

Big Ideas – Missing in Action in the Chemistry Curriculum

Big Ideas

The genesis of this paper started with a request from a former student, Thomas Kuntzleman, now a professor of chemistry. He asked if I would consider submitting my thoughts about ‘big ideas’ in chemistry. In his email he attached a paper that I had written for the Journal of Chemical Education six years earlier1. That article was submitted the year after I retired and was a response to a submission questioning the utility of the Principle of Le Châtelier.  

Tackling Big Ideas


It was the empty terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach at 9:30 at night that really bothered me as I am wading through the stack of papers that I was grading. I had the students do experiments, worksheets, I lectured and there was homework. Some of the students could “do” what I thought was science. They could calculate the answer. They could balance the equation.

Significant Digits, Pool Tolerances, and Ties in Swimming

nascar & swimming

              With the Olympics just finishing up, I was excited to see the following link posted on twitter entitled: Significant Digits and Pool Tolerances are Why There are So Many Ties in Swimming. You see in my attempt to connect chemistry content to a real world application, I had used a scenario in an old YouTube video I had created