Especially JCE: September 2016

“You sank my battleship!” Do you remember this line from a classic commercial featuring the board game Battleship? It sat in my family’s game closet when I was a kid, but it’s popping up again recently, with chemistry twists.

One making the rounds on social media is Periodic Table Battleship, designed by a homeschool blogger to help her young children become more familiar with the periodic table. Copies of the periodic table replace the regular boards. Players choose locations for their ships, each spanning two to five element squares.

This chemistry-themed game is just one that has appeared over the years, including a wide range in the Journal of Chemical Education (JCE). Just two months ago, my July Especially JCE blog post highlighted the game “Picture Chem” as a tool for becoming familiar with common lab equipment. The September 2016 issue of JCE offers two additional games.

Orbital Battleship

The first is also based on Battleship. This version, described in Orbital Battleship: A Guessing Game to Reinforce Atomic Structure (available to JCE subscribers), goes beyond familiarizing students with elements on the periodic table. As a game board, it uses copies of a diagram showing orbitals for drawing electron configurations. The diagrams are available online as supporting information. Each student chooses an element and fills in its ground state orbital occupancy on their vertical copy of the diagram. To play, the authors explain, “Next, students take turns firing at electrons using quantum numbers as coordinates. To fire at an electron, students name the symbol of the sublevel, the value of the magnetic quantum number, and the spin.” If it’s a “hit,” you know an electron is located there, and can use the information to help identify your opponent’s chemical element. They report that a game takes from 5–10 minutes and that they have also turned it into a competitive tournament, with the winner trying to beat the instructor. The game could serve as a review of orbital diagrams and electron configurations, and could tie in with a unit on atomic structure.

Chairs! Mobile Game

A second game in this issue of the Journal is a mobile application, summarized in Chairs!: A Mobile Game for Organic Chemistry Students To Learn the Ring Flip of Cyclohexane (available to JCE subscribers). The authors explain game play: “…players are presented with the two different conformational isomers of cyclohexane. A bond is shown on one of the conformers, and a pulsing circle marks the corresponding position on the other conformer. The player must draw the bond on the other conformer with the correct angle, either axial or equatorial. …for every correct bond that is drawn, the player earns a point.” The visual clue of the circle is eventually taken away as players progress through higher levels. The game was tested in both high school and college-level organic chemistry classrooms, with positive outcomes for these initial small sample sizes. As with the Orbital Battleship game above, they also included a competition between the students and the instructor.

Do games find a regular place in your teaching? Which have you found most useful and effective? If you try the two games published in this issue, what did you and your students think? Please share!

For more from this issue, see Mary Saecker’s JCE 93.09 September 2016 Issue Highlights. If you’ve taken a look at some of the articles already, the XChange would love to share your thoughts with its readers. Submit a request to contribute, explaining you’d like to contribute to the Especially JCE column. Questions? Contact us using the XChange’s contact form.