Scaffolding a conceptual understanding of the gas phase in general chemistry enriched by technology

CHED 313

Scott A. Sinex, and Barbara A. Gage, Dept. of Physical Sciences and Engineering, Prince George's Community College, Largo, MD 20774
The study of ideal gases in chemistry is one place where the algebraic analysis and physical behavior merge. We start investigating gases via a discovery laboratory on the behavior of gases where students qualitatively explore pressure-volume-temperature-mole relationships, considering the particulate nature of matter. We then discover the quantitative pressure-volume relationship. We progress to an interactive Excel spreadsheet with an accompanying html document where the mode of questioning allows students to explore the other relationships. The microscopic view is enhanced with Odyssey, a computationally-based simulation package. The approach of “what if” scenarios and numerical experimentation allow students to discover and explore concepts all-the-while relating the symbolic mathematical relationships to behavior including measurement error. Real gas behavior is explored after intermolecular forces are introduced. The combination of real and virtual experimentation provides rich opportunities for science processes and higher-order thinking skills.