high school chemistry

What is it a student should be able to do and explain? How do we find that out???

mole activity

A perfect storm starts to form. We are on the concept of moles and I have some students who are struggling mathematically. It is a rough time of year to get kids excited. Many students are struggling with ACT and SAT prep and as a teacher, I am tired of test...test...test. Also, I had about two dozen 2 liter bottle "pre forms" that I needed to find something to do with.

Quick and Easy Lab Practicals...

Flinn Scientific has a great elearning video series. Many of the videos have master teachers demonstrating some great labs and techniques that they do in the classroom. A general theme in many of the videos seems to be combining demonstrations, labs, calculations and lab practicals. The nice part about what occurs is that for whatever concept the students are doing, it is not enough to come up with an answer on paper. They have to use that answer for a prediction and then see if they are correct actually checking and manipulating material. This idea has added a new dimension to my classroom. Students who are tired of "pen and paper" work now get to get up and use their answers to mass something or find the volume of something and see if they are correct. I have tried to add more of these to my lessons.

Capturing the Beauty of Chemistry with an iPad

In my IB Chemistry class, my seniors were finishing up independent investigations for their Internal Assessment a few weeks ago when something cool happened. One of my students was using silver nitrate and potassium chromate for a titration. This is notable to the story here because the endpoint is marked by the formation of silver chromate as a precipitate, with a deep reddish color. I overhead the student showing his reaction to another student, with both of them commenting on the cool colors involved.

Lewis Take II and Density????

  First, I would like to thank all those who commented on my last blog. For the record, I was wrong. Initially I looked at Linus Paulings early papers as he worked on electronegativity. Much of the work focused on connecting the concept to bond energy. There were some great comments posted to the blog. Probably one of the best was explaining how the concept of electronegativity presents a model for bonds. It is not an observable quantity. This really helped me explain it better to my students. As the commentor posted, all models have limitations. Second, the person commented that in Linus Pauling's General Chemistry book published in 1970 (Dover Publishing) that he does indeed talk about the differences in electronegativity to discuss a type of ionic and covalent character. I stand corrected.

Colligative Properties in Real Life

This year in the midwest United States, winter has been a fickle friend. I haven’t seen the same amount of snow or ice as in recent years, but I still made sure I was prepared for it at our home. I went to my local big box hardware store in December and contemplated buying rock salt (NaCl), and NaCl/calcium chloride mixture, or just calcium chloride. Growing up my dad had switched entirely to calcium chloride because it was less damaging to the brick pavers leading to our porch and backyard. In fact, calcium chloride is generally much safer toward plants and soil than NaCl. Even though calcium chloride is much more expensive than rock salt (it was about twice the cost for 10 pounds more), that what’s I chose. Why?

Building Atoms: One App at a Time

Build an Atom apps

In my high school chemistry class, a unit we cover is that of atomic structure. In particular, given an elements symbol, mass number, atomic number, and charge, the objective would be for the student to determine the atoms number of protons, neutrons, and electrons. I have several apps/program suggestions that can be useful for this purpose.

First Year AP Chemistry Teacher...Enough Said

I’m a first year AP chemistry teacher. My emotions swing from fear of inadequacy to confusion in pacing to acute awareness of the number of years since college chemistry to desperation in grading 55 lab notebooks to exhaustion with inexperience. Honest truth: I'm studying. I'm studying a lot. Despite 14 years of chemistry teaching experience, I feel blindfolded again.

Rethinking Stoichiometry

BCA table

Stoichiometry is arguably one of the most difficult concepts for students to grasp in a general chemistry class. Stoichiometry requires students to synthesize their knowledge of moles, balanced equations and proportional reasoning to describe a process that is too small to see. Many times teachers default to an algorithmic approach to solving stoichiometry problems, which may prevent students from gaining a full conceptual understanding of the reaction they are describing. 

Using "Chemical Detectives" iPad App to Practice Spectroscopy

Chemical Detectives app

The new IB curriculum includes compound identification using NMR, IR and Mass spectroscopy. My current high school lab does not have any of these available. And that's no surprise, given the cost of these machines is far out of our budget. And while some of you may be lucky enough to have a connection to a local university or college, for the rest of us what are the options when it comes to teaching spectroscopy?