analogies

Balancing Equations with Molecular Models

molecular model kit

I am a very firm believer that the world of physical science can be visualized and is an excellent medium for teaching students to model and to picture what happens at the molecular level. The first topic we decided to explore was balancing chemical equations. This seems like such a simple topic to chemistry teachers but I have found that it can be quite challenging for many of my inner city students. The first thing they ask me for is a list of rules that they can follow. We can discuss the problems of algorithmic teaching in a later post! For the time being let’s talk about how to get students to understand why they need to balance equations and discuss what we can call “Conservation of Atoms”.

Time required: 

50 minutes

JCE 93.05 May 2016 Issue Highlights

Journal of Chemical Education May 2016 Cover

Thinking Like a Chemist

The May 2016 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. Topics featured in this issue include: assessment & learning theories, science literacy & chemical information, engaging young chemists in chemistry, analysis of real-world samples, organic chemistry in the classroom and lab, computational chemistry in the laboratory, thermodynamics, kinetics projects, understanding hydrophobic & hydrophilic materials.

A different way to look at heat and energy....

energy bar charts

Each year we work on specific heat of materials and the heat of fusion of ice. These are two labs that are typical for most chemistry classrooms. Most of the experiments involve a simple calorimetry experiment that uses a styrofoam cup and provides generally good results. There tend to be a couple of key ideas with all of these experiments.

Colligative Properties in Real Life

This year in the midwest United States, winter has been a fickle friend. I haven’t seen the same amount of snow or ice as in recent years, but I still made sure I was prepared for it at our home. I went to my local big box hardware store in December and contemplated buying rock salt (NaCl), and NaCl/calcium chloride mixture, or just calcium chloride. Growing up my dad had switched entirely to calcium chloride because it was less damaging to the brick pavers leading to our porch and backyard. In fact, calcium chloride is generally much safer toward plants and soil than NaCl. Even though calcium chloride is much more expensive than rock salt (it was about twice the cost for 10 pounds more), that what’s I chose. Why?

JCE 92.11—November 2015 Issue Highlights

Journal of Chemical Education November 2015 Cover

Educational Opportunities and Challenges

The November 2015 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. Topics featured in this issue include: materials science; polymer chemistry activities; green chemistry; biochemistry in the laboratory; research on student attitudes and the transition from high school to college chemistry; assessment; computer-based learning and computations; from the archives: chemistry YouTube videos.

JCE 92.10 October 2015 Issue Highlights

Journal of Chemical Education October 2015 Cover

Celebrating National Chemistry Week 2015: Chemistry Colors Our World

The October 2015 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. National Chemistry Week, a community-based annual event uniting ACS local sections, businesses, schools, and individuals in communicating the value of chemistry in our everyday life, is being celebrated October 18–24, 2015 with the theme “Chemistry Colors Our World”. Articles in this issue can help you make the most of this annual celebration.

A Thing for Chairs!

Chairs

Over the past two years, I have immersed myself in designing mobile games for organic chemistry: founding a company called Alchemie and building a team to develop these games. The first of our games is called Chairs! (The exclamation point comes from the fact that an app called Chairs already existed in the AppStore.) The game Chairs! is what we call our proof-of-concept. Folks were a bit incredulous when we told them we design games that make learning organic chemistry intuitive and fun. 

A Modeling Approach to Energy Storage and Transfer

In my previous blog post I described some problems I encountered when beginning my instruction on energy this year.  From the misconceptions fostered by the biology textbooks using the phrase “high-energy phosphate bond” to idea that energy comes in different forms, the Modeling community recognizes the challenges of teaching the energy concept and has developed a way of talking about energy designed to help students construct a consistent and cohesive model.

Periodic Table Project

Periodic Table of Legos

Students choose a topic and select items to incorporate into a periodic talbe. Students explore trends related to their own topic and relate to the trends on the actual Periodic Table of Elements.

Time required: 

I provide my students 1 and 1/2 weeks to complete this project. Most students do not need this much time. I provide the extra time for those students who do not have adquate internet/computer access.