Thanks in advance to anyone who replies to this... This is my first year, and I teach 9th grade physical science and am at the point in our curriculum where I am teaching my students about chemical reactions. Since we've already covered the periodic table, atomic structure, naming compounds, etc., I thought that this would be easy. Not so much. My kids simply can't grasp the concept of balancing equations. I've tried everything... days worth of practice problems, homework assignments (graded and not graded), YouTube videos. But nothing works. They still don't get it. Have any of you had this experience? Is there something I'm not doing? Is there a "magic bullet" lesson plan/activity out there? Any help would be greatly appreciated!!

Balancing equations is always tough for my students. It's one of the things that they pick up right away or never at all. I usually spend like 3 days on it. Sorry I don't have any other advice to offer you but I wanted to let you know you're not alone.

I'll tell you how I explain it to somewhat older students: it's a little bit like taking a mixed group of high school students on a field trip. You count noses at the beginning of the day so you know how many kids you have (atoms) and from whose classes (elements). You count them at the end of the day so you make sure you get home with the same number of students you started with - but they may very well be sitting in different groups (compounds) on the bus going home than they were en route.

I know for limiting reagents we use a demo of making cheese sandwiches. Perhaps you could do something similar (s'mores?...end of year stress makes me crave chocolate).

I guess it depends on the set of students, because balancing equations was one of the easier topics in my classes this year. I draw a blank before each reactant and product and tell the students they can only change the numbers there, NOT any of the subscripts in the formula. For example, write the Haber process as: ____ N2 + ________ H2 ---> ______ NH3 Otherwise students may think they can just change the product to N2H2, which is incorrect. I don't do the chart method; that is inefficient. I just say "ok you have 2 Ns on the left, we want 2 on the right, what should I multiply the NH3 by?" (2). Then I say "oh man, we messed up the Hs now-we have 6. Well no problem, just go back to the reactant side and multiply it by something to get 6." Then the students say, "oh that's obviously 3"...I had 5 students come up at a time and gave them one equation each on the board to balance. If any student was stuck I worked with them. Meanwhile the other students completed a worksheet with 30 balancing equations.