Spring Fever, Stoichiometry and Specific Heat

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).

What is it a student should be able to do and explain? How do we find that out???

A perfect storm starts to form. We are on the concept of moles and I have some students who are struggling mathematically. It is a rough time of year to get kids excited. Many students are struggling with ACT and SAT prep and as a teacher, I am tired of test...test...test. Also, I had about two dozen 2 liter bottle "pre forms" that I needed to find something to do with.

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. 

A Quick and Dirty Stoichiometry Lab...Differentiation and Inquiry?

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.

Going from Cookbook to Inquiry...Messy but worth it.

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….