Using Chemical Mysteries (in the IB) Chemistry Classroom

Inspired by Tom Kuntzleman*, I started using mysteries in my chemistry curriculum this past year. The first mystery I shared with my students was burning water. While my magician skills aren't perfect, I was able to get the students asking questions and proposing hypotheses. For my IB students, it really allowed me to delve into a number of topics (e.g. combustion, intermolecular forces, polarity, density). And thus an idea was born: Using one mystery per topic. In this blog post I'll discuss my beginning effort to find or develop a mystery for each topic within the IB Chemistry curriculum.

Melting Pennies

I am fascinated by the chemistry of pennies. I have tried several experiments found in the Journal of Chemical Education.

Copper penny with concentrated nitric acid

The reaction of a copper penny (minted pre-1982) and concentrated nitric acid (15 M) is shown. Red-brown nitrogen dioxide is generated and some of the copper dissolves to form a blue solution of copper(II) nitrate.