ConfChem Conference on Mathematics in Undergraduate Chemistry Instruction: Strengthening Students' Math Fluencies through Calculator-Free Chemistry Calculations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In our previous study of students in second-semester general chemistry classes at the University of Minnesota, higher scores on a calculator-free math assessment, administered at the start of the semester, were found to correlate with higher grades in this course, despite the use of calculators during exams. The present paper describes some methods subsequently used to enhance students' math fluency through solving numerical problems using pencil-and-paper math, without the use of a calculator. When doing such problems in class, the instructor can efficiently interleave reminders of basic algebraic methods to simplify expressions, to work with common and natural logs, and to estimate results to one or two significant figures. Multiple-choice exams incorporating problems of this type, in which calculators were not allowed, were also administered. Examples of such problems and their pencil-and-paper solution methods are presented in the areas of chemical equilibrium, acid-base reactions, buffers, and titrations. Students' evaluations of this pedagogical approach are also discussed. It is hoped that these methods can help motivate students to gain greater intuitive and conceptual insight into the chemistry through solving quantitative problems, and to become more fluent in expressing science in the language of math. This report summarizes one of the invited papers for the ConfChem online conference on Mathematics in Undergraduate Chemistry Instruction, held from October 23 to November 27, 2017, and hosted by the ACS DivCHED Committee on Computers in Chemical Education (CCCE).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1432-1433
Number of pages2
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
Volume95
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 14 2018

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chemistry instruction
chemistry
mathematics
Students
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semester
Titration
Buffers
Education
instructor
language
science
evaluation
education

Keywords

  • Calculator-Based Learning
  • Curriculum
  • First-Year Undergraduate/General
  • Mathematics/Symbolic Mathematics
  • pH

Cite this

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abstract = "In our previous study of students in second-semester general chemistry classes at the University of Minnesota, higher scores on a calculator-free math assessment, administered at the start of the semester, were found to correlate with higher grades in this course, despite the use of calculators during exams. The present paper describes some methods subsequently used to enhance students' math fluency through solving numerical problems using pencil-and-paper math, without the use of a calculator. When doing such problems in class, the instructor can efficiently interleave reminders of basic algebraic methods to simplify expressions, to work with common and natural logs, and to estimate results to one or two significant figures. Multiple-choice exams incorporating problems of this type, in which calculators were not allowed, were also administered. Examples of such problems and their pencil-and-paper solution methods are presented in the areas of chemical equilibrium, acid-base reactions, buffers, and titrations. Students' evaluations of this pedagogical approach are also discussed. It is hoped that these methods can help motivate students to gain greater intuitive and conceptual insight into the chemistry through solving quantitative problems, and to become more fluent in expressing science in the language of math. This report summarizes one of the invited papers for the ConfChem online conference on Mathematics in Undergraduate Chemistry Instruction, held from October 23 to November 27, 2017, and hosted by the ACS DivCHED Committee on Computers in Chemical Education (CCCE).",
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