Reflection: Developing a Conceptual Understanding Chemical Reaction Equations--An Introduction - Section 3: Intro to the Activity


When I was in chemistry class as a high school student, I distinctly remember my chemistry teacher (with her heavy accent) saying that chemical reactions are just like recipes--we need ingredients to make our recipe and we need specific amounts of each ingredient to make the perfect product with perfect proportions.  The relationship between chemical reactions and recipes is undeniable, and it is one that I have always related to my students in an effort to draw connections between something they understand and have experienced and chemistry content that is sometimes abstract.  

While I have used examples like the ones shown in this exercise (making sandwiches and only having so many rolls, making quesadillas with only so many tortillas, etc.), I had never made it a complete lesson with my students before.  I decided to use this lesson as a way to really cement the academic vocabulary associated with balancing chemical reaction equations, and therefore also developing students' conceptual understanding of what those ratios mean.

This was a low affective barrier exercise that actually did get my students using the vocabulary terms--reactants, products, limiting reactants, and excess reactants--that I wanted them to use.  This understanding also carried over into following lessons where we translated this learning to understanding chemical reaction equations and processes.  I have seen subsequent success from my students on these topics across a wide variety of learning capabilities at a much higher level than I have in years past and I plan to continue using this lesson in future years.

  How do recipes relate to chemical reactions?
  Developing a Conceptual Understanding: How do recipes relate to chemical reactions?
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Chemical Reaction Equations--An Introduction

Unit 3: Chemical Reactions and Stoichiometry
Lesson 3 of 14

Objective: SWBAT categorize objects in varying situations as the equivalent of reactants or products and identify those reactants as either limiting or excess.

Big Idea: Starting materials in scientific processes are called "reactants" and "products" are the result; reactants that run out limit the amount of product made, leftovers are called excess.

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