# Math needed for Chemistry

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by atomic, Feb 16, 2012.

1. ### atomicCompanion

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Feb 16, 2012

What math topics/skills are necessary for chemistry?

3. ### czaczaMultitudinous

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Feb 16, 2012

To teach it or learn it as a student? I notice you asked the same question about physics...

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Feb 16, 2012

Basic understanding of Algebra is what we require for regular Chemistry. The hugest hurdles we seem to have is understanding how to convert from one unit to another and showing unit resolution in equations (planning how to solve). Students resist doing any math steps that they can't do in their heads. It is really important to plan appropriately and show all work.

I also think students should know how to use their calculators properly, such as how to use the EE button for scientific notation and how to correctly enter commands. For example, when a multiplication is done in a denominator like 18/(5*7) a common mistake is to enter 18 / 5 *7 to get an answer of 25.2 , instead of using parentheses or entering 18 / 5 / 7, which would also give the correct answer of 0.514.

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Feb 17, 2012

At my daughter's school, students are required to have just taken Algebra I before entering in to chemistry. Algebra II is a prerequisite for physics.

6. ### 2ndTimeAroundPhenom

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Feb 17, 2012

Algebra II is a corequisite at my school. I don't think it is needed, especially since geometry is a prerequisite for Alg. II.

But I do think that students that haven't had at least two years of high school math should have an A in Alg. I before taking chemistry. While you may not need the higher skills associated with the other math classes, you do need the extra time using the more basic skills. And you need to see that while there are often many ways to get a math answer, some are better than others. A lesson you learn more in geometry and alg. II than you do in Alg. I. Stoichiometry can be difficult for students that do not accept this already.

7. ### ybmiuqRookie

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Feb 18, 2012

Although I majored in chemistry, most all of my teaching has been algebra for some reason. (Honestly, when I did teach chemistry around here I felt in trouble for teaching something I was good at for some reason!) But now since I have had so much experience teaching math, I guess I am better off mainly because of all the safety regulations required now days. Teaching science isn’t so fun anymore. So far math is good, but I am glad I also have a commercial pilot’s license and recently obtained a CDLA truck driver’s license.
I guess Algebra 1 is the main math prerequisite. For Stoichiometry, students could use a good understanding of proportional reasoning as in 7th and 8th grade math when they went outside to measure the height of the flag-pole or tree. This should easily transfer to stoichiometrics. If one tank of C8H18 will make your car go 300 miles, how far will two tanks make it go, or many moles of C are needed to go 50 miles?
Scientific Notation is used consistently. I wonder if the rationale for scientific notation is properly given in Algebra. Seems like everybody in math just says it is for expressing large numbers, but I think the main reason for it is learned in science lessons on significant figures. For example the ambiguous recording of 7000 may be more clearly expressed as 7 x 10^3, or 7.0 x 10^3, or 7.00 x 10^3, or 7.000 x 10^3 depending on the required precision.
I think algebra level percent error is good.
Base 10 logarithms might be helpful for understanding the shape of titration curves and calculating pH.
Really, not much of Algebra One is needed in regular h.s. chemistry. A regular chemistry course (not AP) that includes statistics, the quadratic formula, etc. would be a nice practical support and review of algebra. The quadratic formula would come in handy for titrations of weak acids/bases and buffers. Simultaneous equations might be good for balancing equations, but I’ve never seen Chemistry texts require much more that a guess and check method.
I don’t see the need for very much Geometry in basic h.s. chemistry because the complexities of quantum mechanics might not allow the student to test geometric hypotheses. Someone mentioned logical reasoning. It is needed in all classes. The importance of logical reasoning might invoke geometry as one of its best catalysts.
Well, I think everyone acts like stoichiometry is the big deal and so probably proportional reasoning is most important and the level required is usually learned in 7th grade.