Science Practice: Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

Mole Unit Mini-Practicums

We all know how fundamental the mole concept is for stoichiometry. This year I brainstormed ways to really make it stick. I decided to do multiple mini-practicums, one for each learning target of the mole unit. I am sharing brief descriptions of the mini-practicums I did for each learning target.

Acid Base Speed Dating

The unit of acids and bases is difficult for most students in Advanced Placement Chemistry. The variety of various calculations can be overwhelming. The Acid Base Speed Dating Activity engages students in completing a series of problems. Each student is assigned a specific solution and then determines their individual pH to complete their personal “Solution Biography.” Then the speed dating begins! For each date, the students need to find a specific match and determine their combined pH value. 

An Elemental Understanding of Isotopes

In this activity, students can look inside the model that resembles the atom and find information that reinforces what an isotope actually is. Furthermore, the quantitative data forces students to examine beliefs about different types of averages and what the numbers really mean. This takes a bit of effort to set up but is inexpensive and can be used year after year.

An Unexpected Source of Inquiry-Based Lab Practicals

Each spring my Local Section of The American Chemical Society (ACS) hosts a rigorous two part exam as part of the selection process for the The International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO). The lab practicals on the exams are presented as problems. No procedure is given. Students must use their chemistry knowledge and lab experience to devise a plan and solve the problem. The best part is that the released exams come with lists of materials and equipment, helpful hints to the proctors, and solutions! This is a great source for Inquiry-Based Lab Practicals.

Rethinking Stoichiometry

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.