Science Practice: Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

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.

The Two Words Every Chemistry Student Needs to Learn

Teaching students the proportional reasoning skills needed for stoich doesn’t have to be that daunting. By adjusting how your students talk about stoich, you will adjust how they think about it; eventually, they’ll proportionally reason in a more effective manner.

This post was submitted for the 2017 ChemEd X Call for Contributions: Creating a Classroom Culture.

Reflections from Kinetics - Solidifying Why I Teach Method of Initial Rates AND Integrated Rate Laws

I taught my students how to use the method of initial rates. I taught my students rate laws. However, they strugged to differentiate when to use what method. Upon further probing, they struggled to articulate why one might use one method over the other. They could parrot back some ideas ("The rate law tells you about the particles involved in the rate determining step of the reaction."), but I wasn't convinced of mastery and connections.

Give Me Back My Copper! A Simple, but Multi-Faceted Lab Activity to Review Lab Skills in Week One of AP Chemistry

In the lab, students are given a 1.5 gram samples of copper. The copper is taken through a series of five chemical reactions ending with the precipitation of solid copper. After the five reactions, students are asked to return their 1.5 gram samples of copper to the teacher.

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.