I feel like every year I face the same old dilemma. It starts with an idea in mind of what and how something should be taught. This idea is fine until it is discovered that students this year are different than students last year. The idea is changed or “tweaked”. The process is feels similar to having to “reinvent” the wheel each year. This gets exhausting.
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”.