Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Challenge: A Good Chemistry Discussion Question?

Here, Ellen has laid down the challenge of coming up with a good chemistry question–one that will stimulate interesting discussions like the rainbow question . So I'm giving that challenge to all of us.

If you're reading this, consider doing one of the following in the comments:
  • Let us know a good chemistry question you or a colleague has used
  • Brainstorm one or two possible questions (just throw 'em out there, see if they stick)
  • Toss out some topic areas that you think might be a rich possibility, and say why
  • Contribute a question about chemistry that has intrigued you personally
  • Suggest a demonstration, situation, or phenomena that might induce a good question
  • Suggest some essential features of a good chemistry question
  • React to someone else's contribution
  • Invite a colleague or friend to contribute

To help maybe start us off, here is a chemistry-related question over at dy/dan that led me and several of my colleagues to dig in for a few hours. My office white board is full of drawings, equations, arithmetic, etc. If you wanna know how that question might go in a high school classroom, there's a gallery of student whiteboards about the question over at Newton's Minions.

1 comment:

  1. Ok, so I've been thinking about this since Ellen brought it up on Friday. I have an idea about a video I want to make for a good chemistry question, but it probably won't get posted until next week. But the gist is that an essential question could be, "How much empty space is in THAT?" It underlies the idea of density, and how adding liquids doesn't conserve volume, and even understanding the structure of the atom. But it also connects to packing a suitcase or packing a car. OR... this

    My idea is to fill a kitchen measuring cup with marbles and then show in the video myself about to pour water into the measuring cup.

    So we ask students to throw out guesses about how much water they think. Then we ask them to draw a diagram showing where the water is going to go. Ask if anyone wants to change there guess. You show the video, and celebrate the closer guesser.

    Next you show a video of the same measuring cup filled with bigger marbles. And ask, is it going to hold more or less water. Let them go back to drawing, figuring out whether it will be more or less water. Collect guesses about how much more or less. Show the rest of the video showing how much water.

    Anyway, not quite same as the rainbow question, but the beginning of my idea.