20 – An Acid-Base Math Review

At the point you are about to teach  [H+] and [OH-] in strong acid and base solutions, here’s an experiment you might try that takes only 10 minutes of class time — and may yield interesting results.

Cognitive science advises that, when teaching how to solve chem calculations,

  • if before a new topic is started, students are given review of just the number-math encountered in topic problems, and
  • if that practice uses simple numbers that students can solve by mental arithmetic,

when the chem component is added, both the math operations and chemistry will be learned more quickly — and better retained.

In practice, with real students, might science be right?

As an experiment, at  https://www.ChemReview.Net/ABMathToInstructors.pdf  is an assignment that teaches students the math of calculating [H+] and [OH-] in acidic and basic solutions — without a calculator — as a homework assignment.

The homework provides worked out answers.   For instructors, quiz questions and citations on the cognitive science are included.

It’s an experiment in the science of learning that may help us learn how students can better learn and retain chem – and it requires only 2 minutes of class time.  Worth a try?

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19 – Video on “How to Learn” from Stephen Chew

Cognitive scientist Dr. Stephen Chew has posted a 24-minute video on “How to Learn in Pandemic Times”  addressing how students can overcome fundamental bottlenecks in learning.  For instructors, it’s a great summary of how we can help students — during Covid times and thereafter.

For several years, Dr. Judy Hartman from the USNA Chemistry faculty and Eric Nelson have been working to prepare research summaries that explained to chemistry and physics educators how  cognitive science describes how the student brain solves problems and learns to solve problems.  The hope has been that with knowledge of this science, instructors can improve student success rates in STEM majors.  Our latest effort has been the article “A Praradigm Shift:  Implications of Working Memory Limits,” posted at  http://arxiv.org/abs/2102.00454 and discussed in Post 18.

Working independently to explain the science to a broader educator audience, cognitive expert Dr. Chew came up with what looks to be the same explanation we did, in fewer words and  great graphics.  Having degrees in chemistry, not cognitive science, we were relieved to watch the expert’s description of importance of the working memory bottleneck — and how automaticity achieved by over-learning can circumvent the bottleneck and speed the rate of learning.

Dr. Chew’s video explains fundamental principles that can guide instructors in designing instruction and students in learning how to learn.  As homework to help  your students understand learning, you might consider this:

“Assignment:  Watch the 24 minute video on making study more effective — at

https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=XOKG2LrnwYo

“Be ready to answer the 8 Review Questions at the end  (either)  in a quiz on [date] ( or )  as part of the next quiz on (topic).”

Two questions you might add in a brief discussion of the video:

“Why it is important to turn off your cell phone during study if you want to major in science?

and

“What is overlearning and why is it important?”

For citations of the cognitive research supporting the video , see the article on “Working Memory Limits” discussed in Post 18.

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