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.”

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

“The Candle Experiment” – an Opening Exercise for General (or introductory) chemistry

candle flame

This exercise is intended as an ice-breaker for a first or second class meeting. It also serves as an introduction to physical & chemical properties and application of the macro/micro/symbolic representations of chemical phenomena. Finally, it also provides a framework to mention many of the topics to be covered in a general chem first semester course.

First Day of Chemistry: The Banning of Caffeine and Making Gummy Worms

The first day of school for me has always been daunting for my new students (in AP chemistry, where I know the kids, it’s so much easier). I want my students to know the following: -Who is this tiny person who looks like a teenager (that’d be ME, folks)? Where did she come from and why is she teaching us? -What does chemistry look like?