In this blog post I'll describe a recent attempt at using BCA Tables for teaching stoichiometry. I discuss the method I used with one introductory chemistry class to teach both the algorithm method and BCA tables to learn more about a technique I've been curious about for a while.
From the looks of things, we are all in the same boat. Spring fever. I had two groups of students. Both are ending 3rd quarter, looking out a window at the first nice weather we have had in weeks. Most are already planning their spring break vacation and some have left early. Notice, not much talk about chemistry. The curriculum said it was time for stoichiometry for one group and specific heat for another. Just what the kids wanted to do (read with sarcasm).
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.
There is a traditional stoichiometry lab I have done before. It involves adding dilute hydrochloric acid to sodium bicarbonate, boiling off the fluid and then getting the mass of the sodium chloride. Students then can solve the percent yield for the sodium chloride based on the amount of sodium bicarbonate they use. It is not a bad lab. Something about having hot ceramic watch glasses with acid just makes me a bit nervous. I am not sure where I got this new lab, but it has been one that has evolved over the years It is quick, dirty, relatively simple and uses over the counter (mostly) materials.
Are students reflecting on what their calculated values indicate? This question constantly runs through the minds of chemistry teachers across the country. Recently educators have seen shifts in instruction that promote connections to real-world phenomena using conceptual depth in understanding.
We, as teachers, can see that life is sometimes like this and we care enough about our students that we want to try to prepare them for careers and problems that we can’t even imagine….because we believe that good education can empower people to go further and reach higher than they could ever dream….and maybe the journey we will start together begins with a simple question in which the answer may not seem immediately obvious...and that is O.K….
Recently, I saw this really funny meme on facebook about the creative process. I think it also sums up designing and sustaining students in long term inquiry:
This article describes a three week lesson plan for teaching stoichiometry using an algorithmic method. Two labs (one designed as a laboratory quiz) several cooperative learning exercises, student worksheets and guided instructional frameworks (forcing students to develop good habits in writing measures and doing problem solving) are included. The highlight of the lessons is the "chemistry carol" (based on Felix Mendelssohn's music for "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing") in which students recite a five-step algorithm for completing stoichiometry problems.
This worksheet is intended to be used as a "Guided Instructional Activity" (GIA). Students read a statement that gives a either a conversion factor or a pair of related measures and then write the information as two equivalent fractions ("conversion factors") and as an equality. In each representation, students are directed to give the numeral of the measure, unit, and identity of the chemical.
This set of three worksheets are intended to be used as collaborative "Guided Instructional Activities" (GIAs). Two students cooperate to complete the steps of a stoichiometry problem, alternately doing parts of the process as they explain what they are doing and evaluate their partner's work.