Acid, Base, pH and Food Chemistry

I try to examine activities an multiple levels. First on the list, I want to know if my students will be engaged and learn something. Second, how difficult is it for me as a teacher to actually pull it off? One of the most important questions...are the students learning chemistry or just having fun? This is the first year I have attempted the following activity.  Students were engaged in the real world connection, they asked questions, it transitioned into some chemistry concepts and even some parents got involved. The activity involved acid, bases, pH and food.

Titrations and Microscale Chemistry

I tend to enjoy acid base titrations for several reasons.  First, students get to work with burettes, acids, bases and they see a nice "color change" when they reach an endpoint. Many times, students who tend to struggle with pen and paper testing excel at the "hands-on" approach. Titrations also dovetail well with stoichiometry which provides a nice review of information closer to the end of the year.

Using Visual BCA Tables to Teach Limiting Reactants

A few months ago I was searching the internet, looking for a better way to teach stoichiometry to my pre-AP chemistry students. While my methods of dimensional analysis “got the job done” for most students, I would still always lose students and many lacked true understanding of what was happening in the reaction. I wanted to try something new that would promote a better chemical understanding. In my search for this elusive stoichiometry method, I came across Dena Leggett’s ChemEd X blog post entitled “Doc Save Everyone”, as well as other posts about BCA tables from Lauren Stewart, Lowell Thomson, and Larry Dukerich. 

Real World Application: Drain Cleaners - Should I use them?

Common drain cleaners consist of water, sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and sodium hydroxide (base) and/or potassium hydroxide (base). Bases are caustic (caustic loosely means to gnaw or eat away at) and can cause corrosion in metal pipes. Wouldn’t you know, our house has PVC piping through the fixtures that dump into a 45 year old cast iron pipe. The cast iron pipe is old and currently shows signs of surface rust and corrosion to the point where the pipe appears to be leaking then sealing itself in several spots. Not to mention the interior of the cast iron pipe may not be completely open, thus, not permitting a fast flow in drainage. Good news: a home warranty is being taken advantage of to hopefully replace the cast iron pipe with a PVC pipe.


My First Day Demonstration

I have a first day routine that I am very proud of. I have used it for 25 years and I think I finally have it down pat. I have spoken to students from 20 years ago at reunions and they tell me that they still remember the first day of chemistry so I think it is pretty good.

Lab 20 aka Check the Solution!

Last night I had the opportunity to do another lab that I wrote with my students.  It is so exciting to see something go from words on a screen to a group of students working together in a laboratory.  I learned so much as I walked around the room last night.  Here are a few highlights:

Mass of a Reaction Product

Students combine sodium carbonate and hydrochloric acid generating carbon dioxide gas which is allowed to escape. They measure the actual yield of carbon dioxide produced (missing mass), calculate the theoretical yield using stoichiometry, and then the percent yield. Students understand that 100% yield is the most appropriate answer (based on the Law of Conservation of Mass), so after considering the meaning of significant figures and the uncertainty of their measurements they are asked to decide if they did (or did not) get an answer that might indicate the validity of the Law.