What actually is important to teach in Chemistry?

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Camel13, Dec 11, 2018.

  1. Camel13

    Camel13 Rookie

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    Dec 11, 2018

    I am experiencing such frustration with my Junior class right now! I teach all sciences in my small school 7-11th. This is my second year teaching and while my Juniors last year struggled a bit in Chem, they are massively struggling this year. I have a Chemistry textbook that is two decades old, so I have elected to use it more as reference.
    I began both years with the periodic table, it’s arrangement, charge structure, properties and naming molecular and ionic compounds. Then, we progressed to balancing, finding molar mass, converting from grams to moles and back, percent composition. Now we are on empirical formula and molecular formulas. This is as far as we have gotten this year! Last year I had at least made it to stoichometry and gas laws. We went to Lewis dots and structural shapes, acids and bases, reaction rates, and equilibrium.

    My students are just crashing on understanding. I know it is not me; as I said last year was better...I have only 16 students, 5 of which have IEPS and take algebra basics instead of alg 2 right now. I am finding basic concepts of solving for x lacking as well as just understanding the steps. One of my top students today in trying to understand empirical formaula was having a break down over how they were going to know the steps!

    I keep wondering if I am focusing on the math too much? But, I look at the labs we could do, and the questions all involve this math. I haven’t been teaching long enough to customize labs. My students act like I am trying to teach them college chem. Am I? There are literally only 8 science standards that apply to Chemistry, so maybe I am having unreal expectations. Chemistry teachers out there do you have suggestions for me?
     
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  3. TrademarkTer

    TrademarkTer Groupie

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    Dec 11, 2018

    What are the different levels of chem? In my school, students may take Conceptual Chem, Mathematical Chem, Honors Chem, or AP Chem so there is a wide assortment. It sounds like the kids you have would likely be kids in the Conceptual Chem camp over here.
     
  4. Camel13

    Camel13 Rookie

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    Dec 12, 2018

    I only have one Chemistry class. I am the only science teacher in our small school. I have only 16 students in Chem. So, the most basic Chem?
     
  5. Tulipteacher

    Tulipteacher Companion

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    Dec 12, 2018

    I have no idea about chemistry, but here is a link to my state's released chemistry final exam. All core subjects have state exams here. To give you some context, in my state, students only need 3 science classes to graduate: earth science, bio, and either physical sci or chem. State colleges require chem, so that is what college-bound kids take. Kids who know they don't want to go to a 4 year college usually take physical science.

    http://www.ncpublicschools.org/accountability/testing/common-exams/released-items/highschoolitems
     
  6. Bioguru

    Bioguru Companion

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    Dec 13, 2018

    Chemistry teacher here. On years where I have especially low regular classes, as you are describing, I make sure students can do the following as a bare minimum so I felt like I had given them a foundation:

    1. Determine how many protons, neutrons, and electrons are in an atom; identify the different atomic models: Thomson's, Rutherford's, Bohr's, and Schrodinger's.
    2. Know the names of the periodic table groups and periodic table trends.
    3. Write electron configurations.
    4. Write and name ionic and covalent compounds.
    5. Balance equations and identify the basic reaction types.
    6. Complete mole to atom and mole to gram conversions.
    7. Calculate % composition and empirical formulas.
    8. Complete mass to mass stoichiometry calculations.
    9. Know and use the gas laws (combined, ideal, dalton's)
    10. Calculate molarity.
    11. Identify acid and base characteristics; perform basic pH calculations.
    12. Touch on reduction and oxidation; solve very basic electrochemistry problems.
    13. Describe half-life and complete transmutation reactions.
    14. Understand and calculate specific heat along with endothermic and exothermic reactions.
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2018
  7. Camel13

    Camel13 Rookie

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    Dec 14, 2018

    Thank you, Bioguru, thank really helps! We have made it to 8, more or less. Do you feel like you need to re-teach math concepts just to get students to comprehend basic algebra of solving for grams or moles? I am literally pulling my hair out with this group!
     
  8. Bioguru

    Bioguru Companion

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    Dec 17, 2018

    I don't do a focused algebra review, but I really try to do a lot of modeling as I solve problems.

    For example, let's say you had a basic problem like converting 48g of Mg to moles. I would talk through the process: "Start with what you're given: 48g of Mg. Set up your dimensional analysis with moles on top (because that's the unit we want) and grams on bottom (because that's the unit we want to cancel out). Using our periodic table, we see that for every 1 mole of Mg we will have about 24 grams. Thus, I'm going to have 1 mole on top, and 24g on bottom. When we multiply 48 by 1 and divide by 24, we get about 2 moles of Mg."

    My usual teaching approach is to start by working two problems on the board, talking through it in a lot of detail. Then I will give them a paper with about 5-10 similar problems on it. We'll work through the first one together, me asking them leading questions to guide me through it. I will then have them try two on their own which we immediately discuss and solve on the board for quick feedback. I'll then give them about 10-15 minutes depending on the topic to work through the remaining problems on their own as I rotate around and catch mistakes, answer questions, offer praise, redirect, etc.
     
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  9. Pisces

    Pisces Rookie

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    Jan 16, 2019

    Can you try using the Modeling Chemistry stuff from the modelinginstruction website? Also, check out NJCTL's site with their chemistry guides and material. Their stuff is really helpful.
    https://njctl.org/courses/science/chemistry/
     
  10. Teacher234

    Teacher234 Cohort

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    Jan 29, 2019

    Is it bad that your explanation made my brain hurt and gave me a bit of a headache? Yikes..
     
  11. MathGuy31

    MathGuy31 Rookie

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    Feb 3, 2019

    It's really to allow students to learn and about calculations with science. Also, it enhances advanced thinking for our youth. I have taught chemistry before and I currently teach math, but many now don't realize the importance of enhanced thinking of how science and math expands the brain. So now, we get tons of students in math and science saying "how will I ever use this". Very few get the point that expands the brain. Just like any subject, it's good to know how to make colored fire, what not to mix chemicals, but yet many denounce this and think it's useless. That's why it's hard to find science/math teachers in many districts that stick it out long.
     
  12. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    Feb 3, 2019

    I think it is also important that teachers explain WHY math is important and many teachers are unable to do that, unfortunately. You’d be surprised how many math teachers cannot give real-life applications involving math and it’s maddening. I can easily come up with dozens upon dozens upon dozens for all of the math classes I teach and many, many beyond. That’s why it’s not enough just to know how to teach one’s grade level subject because if you only have a minimal level of understanding, then your students will only, as well.
     
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