6 Tips for Teaching Stoichiometry in Your Chemistry Class [Episode 101]


Click below to hear 6 tips for teaching stoichiometry in your chemistry class: 


When I decided to do this series, I knew exactly what I was going to discuss when it came to the difficulties of teaching chemistry. Students get overwhelmed by all the math and more intense content that comes with this science discipline, particularly teaching stoichiometry. However, there are several things you can do to ease their stress and make this unit fun for your students. So, in today’s episode, I’m sharing 6 tips for teaching stoichiometry in your chemistry class. 

There are a lot of concepts in chemistry that are difficult for students to grasp and understand, which is why it’s important to bring these up early or before you teach the content. Not only does this provide multiple opportunities to practice, but when it’s mentioned in the content, they already have seen it before. Additionally, teaching chemistry is more than just content. It’s teaching students problem-solving and critical thinking skills. And one of the best ways to achieve this is by incorporating real-world scenarios, labs, and activities in order for them to see the connection.

Even though your students may be apprehensive about the chemistry content, there are still things you can do to help alleviate and diminish their stress. By implementing these 6 tips and other pieces of advice, I hope to encourage you that teaching stoichiometry to your students will be fun and academic at the same time. Tune in next week for the last episode in the series about the difficult topics teaching physics. 

Topics Discussed:

  • 6 tips for teaching stoichiometry
  • Why Mole Day is a great opportunity to preview difficult content students will see later in the year
  • How to incorporate fun labs and real-world scenarios that help make content more meaningful
  • What you’re really teaching students in chemistry that’s not content-related

Resources Mentioned:

Related Episodes and Blog Posts:

Connect with Rebecca:

More about Secondary Science Simplified: 

Secondary Science Simplified is a podcast specifically for high school science teachers that will help you to engage your students AND simplify your life as a secondary science educator. Each week Rebecca, from It’s Not Rocket Science, and her guests will share practical and easy-to-implement strategies for decreasing your workload so that you can stop working overtime and start focusing your energy doing what you love – actually teaching!

Teaching doesn’t have to be rocket science, and you’ll learn exactly what you need to do to simplify your secondary science teaching life so that you can enjoy your life outside of school even more. Head to itsnotrocketscienceclassroom.com/challenge to grab your FREE Classroom Reset Challenge.

Rebecca 0:01
Happy mole day, y’all. We are in the middle of a little series I’m doing on how to teach difficult topics in secondary science classes. And when I’m playing this series, I just knew this week’s episode had to be chemistry. And stoichiometry is arguably one of the hardest units to teach and chemistry. Students are terrified of it. They’ve heard horror stories from the classes before them. They think the math is boring. And honestly, it can get tedious having to do so many practice problems over and over again. So today and honored mouldy I will be sharing my best tips for teaching stoichiometry in your chemistry class. Let’s dive in. This is secondary science simplified a podcast for secondary science teachers who want to engage their students and simplify their lives. I’m Rebecca joiner from it’s not rocket science. As a high school science teacher turned curriculum writer, I am passionate about helping other science teachers love their jobs, serve their students, and do it all in only 40 hours a week. Are you ready to rock the time you spend in your classroom and actually have a life outside of it? You are in the right place teacher friend. Let’s get to today’s episode.

Rebecca 1:22
Now today’s episode is for my chemistry teachers listening. But as I have said, all month long, I do have something for everyone. And that’s my Halloween science, freebies. There’s one for biology, anatomy, chemistry and physics, if you had to isn’t rocket science classroom.com/halloween, you can grab these for free Halloween themed science resources they are perfect to use over the next week or so. Now let’s talk about teaching stoichiometry, which you most likely aren’t teaching until later this year, which is yay, that’s great, you have time to prepare. Now, I’m going to share six tips with you that I think will be helpful as you’re planning out how you’re going to teach stoichiometry. And for a little context, before we dive in stoichiometry for me and my scope and sequence in my chemistry curriculum, it falls as the first unit after winter break. So it’s gonna be what we’re going to kick off the new semester with in January. It’s Unit Six of 10. So just to give you some context, all right, now, here’s my first tip. It is to teach dimensional analysis and scientific notation early. Now, I know there’s some controversy with this. I know there are a lot of teachers that say, don’t start your year off with this, it scares them away. You know, it’s overwhelming. Why do all this math at the beginning of the year if they’re not really going to need it until later in the year? And I totally hear that argument. But on the other side of it, here’s my thought. Don’t let the first time they see all this be in the context of stoichiometry? Like how scary would that be if the first time they’re doing a unit conversion? It’s for molecules to grams, okay, that’s it’s just it’s too much. And they’re using these giant numbers. And there’s no context. They don’t even know what a gram really is, let alone a molecule or a mole of something. Okay, so I personally like to start the school year with dimensional analysis and scientific notation in my introduction to chemistry unit. Now, obviously, we’re three months into the school year. So you’re like, well, Rebecca, we haven’t done it yet. So what are we supposed to do now, if you have not introduced this concept yet, I recommend I have a fudge lab activity. It’s a great little lab where basically, they get the recipe for making a single serving of fudge from their grandma. And she wrote it in crazy units and numbers, they have to convert out of scientific notation into standard notation, and then convert it into usable units like teaspoons, and tablespoons and drops. And you know, then they actually can make it in the lab and eat it. And I have an expansion pack of this, I’ll link in the show notes. It’s almost like a mini unit, where I just pulled out my notes from my physical science curriculum on dimensional analysis and scientific notation. I have a quiz in there and some practice handouts, and then you get this fudge lab, but it’s all in there. But so you could kind of do that. Now, if you haven’t done anything about this yet. But I really want to urge you do not wait until you start stuff like to introduce dimensional analysis and scientific notation. This is one of those things y’all they need to see multiple times, because it feels really overwhelming at first. I also feel really passionate about making sure you introduce it in a meaningful real world context. This is why I love using this fudge lab, because they’re not thinking about chemistry. They’re thinking about making fudge, and let’s be real. Personally, I use dimensional analysis daily as I cook or as I host. I love to make Chex Mix. For example, for the holidays every year for Thanksgiving, Christmas. I make homemade chex mix. And I’m standing there in the store aisle in the cereal aisle looking at the checks. I’m looking at the nutrition label I’m seeing okay How many servings is in this box, I’m converting that to how many I need for my recipe and figuring out how many boxes I need, y’all that’s dimensional analysis on the go on the fly. Okay, so if your students are going to make food for any amount of people other than themselves at some point in their life, they’re going to be using this type of thinking. So why not teach them dimensional analysis in the context of cooking, since that’s how they’re going to most likely use it in the real world. And then, because we’re introducing this early, we’ll bring it back to stoichiometry. Later, I really think introducing it in the context of food makes it so practical. And remember, we’re really just trying to teach them a thought process. I say this all the time when it comes to chemistry. teaching chemistry is really teaching problem solving and critical thinking, you’re teaching them how to think differently. It’s not as much about this content and this memorization, it’s teaching them how to think a certain way so that they can solve any sort of problems in any sort of context, with not necessarily needing that much information. Like you can teach them intermolecular forces, and you know, chemical bonds, and maybe like three other things. And they can basically apply that and all this type of critical thinking skills, just so many different chemical contexts. So I really want to encourage you to introduce that early, please don’t let the first time they see scientific notation, be in the context of learning about the mole and the number of atoms, okay, so maybe you’re doing something about the mole today or this week from all day. That’s great. That’s at least hopefully, two months before you bring it back up. Again, that’s really important. So I really want to encourage you to introduce it early. The second thing I will say is then I want you to review dimensional analysis and scientific notation, when you start teaching your stoichiometry unit, but before actually diving into stoic specific conversions. Okay, so, again, I start stoic after winter break. And the very first lab activity they do, we haven’t taken notes, we haven’t done a single thing will be a hot chocolate lab activity. It is a different version of the fudge lab. It’s like the same exact context. But this time, they’re going to make homemade hot chocolate. They’re going to do the scientific notation, the dimensionality again, but again, we’re doing it in a safe place. We’re doing it in the context of food. We’re not talking about moles or atoms yet, okay? Do that. First bring it up again. First, before you bring it in to stoic don’t just go cold turkey. I taught it in August. Now I’m going to bring it back up again in January, dive head anagram symbols. They’re not ready for that. Okay. And I have a version of this homemade hot chocolate lab activity. That’s a freebie. It’s a seasonal freebie for winter. So right now, I know that talking about the Halloween ones, but winter is around the corner. And this one is a holiday hot chocolate. So it’s a little bit more seasonal. And you can grab that it’s an architect’s classroom.com/winter. But I really recommend at least starting with that before you dive into your story geometry unit. Okay, my third tip is, please start your unit by helping them understand the Mole. And maybe you’re doing that today. And I’m so glad maybe you’re using mole day to really help them understand and try to wrap their minds around the quantity of a mole. Because it’s so abstract to them, y’all. They don’t understand what a mole is, hopefully, we can help them understand why it matters. Like, hey, we’re using so many of some really tiny things, which is why we need to make these numbers more reasonable, which is why we use the Mole. But helping them understand it is so critical. So even if you’re bringing it up today, please just kind of do something else, again, come January, or whatever your stoichiometry unit is to kind of refresh your memory on what a mole is. I have an activity in my storage unit called the magnitude of a mole. And students basically draw cards, and they get to different things. And they have to figure out the conversions and do some research to figure out how much of that is this in terms of what the magnitude of a mole is. And the cool thing is, I have so many different cards that no two students will have the same combination of cards. So they’re all going to do this little activity in this little mini project differently. So for example, they may draw a card that says, you know, puppies, and they may draw another card that says, you know, a Olympic sized swimming pool, and their job is to figure out how much is one mole of puppies and an Olympic sized swimming pool. Okay, so that’s what they’re kind of trying to do here. They’re trying to put quantities around how big a mole is, using things that they can actually visualize in the real world. I really just think giving them some sort of visual will give them context. Again, for all this scientific notation they’re doing, we’re not just moving decimals, okay? We’re trying to understand these giant and also really tiny numbers. So please start your psych unit off helping them understand what a mole is and giving them some context for that. My fourth tip for teaching Stroik is scaffold it, please, y’all scaffold it. Please don’t spend 13 Then it’s doing all of your stoichiometry notes and all the different types of calculations and then sending them off to do a packet of practice problems. Okay, I give them a mole map, I have a reference sheet in each of my chemistry units that I personally will let my students use throughout the unit and then later on the test. But basically on that reference sheet, there’s a mole map that says, Okay, if you’re given moles, here’s how you get to grams. If you’re given grants, here’s how you get to moles and vice versa. It kind of gives them again, a map of where to go from here. But then I break down the street calculations into four types. We start with multiple, we stop in practice, then we come back and do multi gram, stop and practice grams, small stop and practice grams two gram, stop and practice. And I really recommend teaching it this way. Anytime I’m teaching something that’s like very much direct instruction, which you all follow or use, it’s not rocket science resources. You know, I love a good inquiry activity. I love it. I love it so much, especially like a guided inquiry activity, kind of like a POGIL. That’s like my thing, I love it. But sometimes you just got to do that direct instruction. And with these calculations, I think it’s the most helpful. So I like to do direct instruction with an example all together as a class. And then in the notes, I like to build in two to three practice problems that they’re going to do with a neighbor, I call it their next door neighbor, whoever they sit by, and then why they’re doing this all their notes, and then we’re going to go over it together as a cloth, and they can correct it in their notes, then, and only then do I send them out to do a practice handout or homework problems or whatever on their own. And when I send them out to any sort of practice page like that, like a worksheet on their own, I like to give them time by themselves first to get started. And then if they can do that first chunk of time by themselves without talking, then they get the remaining 10 minutes with a neighbor or something like that, depending on times, maybe they’re getting 10 minutes on their own 10 minutes to the neighbor. And I think this is really important, because when you give them a practice problem, and you send them out and let them work with a friend, one person may just take over and the other person is just following it writing it all down. And they’re never kind of forced to really try on their own. However, when you send them out on their own first with the reward being do it by yourself first, then you get a partner, it motivates them to really try, let’s let them get started. And if you’re using radar, which is a problem solving technique that I talk a lot about, I’ll link a blog post in the show notes about this, I feel really passionate about radar. I talked about it in chemistry in my chemistry curriculum so much, because I don’t know how I would teach chemistry without it. But if you’re teaching them radar, even if they can’t solve the entire problem, they every student, your class should be able to get started and do something, even if they’re just setting up the problem for all five of your practice problems or all 10 of your practice from then when they get with a partner, they can look and be like, Okay, did you set yours up like mine? Where do I go from here, and then they just kind of get the next step as opposed to just copying all the practice together. So that’s kind of how I always break up doing practice problems, especially with something that you need direct instruction on. And I really encourage that with stoic and really break it up into four chunks to build their confidence. Like if you just do it all on the new throw them out and they’re doing, you know, moles to grams, or grams to grams, they’re going to be so overwhelmed that you started off, like, let’s just do multiples. This is a baby step from what they’ve just been doing with the dimensional analysis that hopefully they’ve now seen multiple times throughout your year. Okay, then we’re gonna kind of stretch it a bit. Now let’s do moles or grams. Let’s see if we can go the other direction. Okay, and you keep building on it that way, you really need to scaffold teaching these calculations. My fifth tip is honestly do some fun things with them. I realized after I wrote my storage unit, that I had three different labs that involve food. And I kind of joked with my husband like they’re going to be eating their feelings, like while they, you know, process through all of the trauma that is stoichiometry calculations. And obviously, I mean that ingest, but it’s true, like, they’re going to look forward to these labs where they get to eat, if it’s going to help take the edge off of doing all the math, if they’re nibbling on an Oreo, or drinking the hot chocolate, they just did the calculations for to make or if they’re making s’mores in your lab, these are going to be memorable experiences. And especially like, again, this is falling in January for me, I love to go outside can’t do that in January. So these kind of make these labs a little bit cozier, a little bit more fun. You can find lots of different things like this on the Internet for free. And of course I have all these different things in my unit as well. But I really recommend doing some labs like that. Yes, I have a lab at the end of the unit where they make homemade chalk. Yes, that’s very cool. Yes, they’re gonna go outside, it’s gonna be freezing, but we’re gonna try it anyway. But like, don’t just only do labs like that, where they’re making a rocket or making an airbag or making chocolate. Let’s do some things that are like, maybe editable or maybe a little bit more fun. Okay, I think the editable labs will make it a little bit more enjoyable for them. Okay, then my son next and final tip for you is make it meaningful as best you can, as many real world scenarios as possible. I think oftentimes, we are afraid to give our chemistry students word problems, because they think word problems are too hard. Like, if they see a word problem, if they see like a paragraph of information, they’re like, it’s too much, and they just want to skip it, when in reality, a word problem can actually be easier, because it’s gonna give them meaning and context for a situation. And it’s great practice for them with any sort of standardized test for them to practice having to read there’s so much of standardized tests is reading comprehension. So let’s give them that practice with word problems. And especially with chemistry, you know, I’ve talked about this when I talked about teaching biochemical reactions in Episode 98, for biology teachers. But when we teach these chemical things, these things that are so micro for them, it’s so abstract, they can’t see it, they don’t they’re like, what’s a mole, what’s an atom like, this doesn’t matter to me. But when we teach chemistry in context, it creates so much more meaning for our students. So at the end of my stoichiometry unit, I have some review stations where they’re going to review like all the different math they’ve done, but all in real world contexts. So I did a ton of research to make all these different things where they’re going to do, they’re going to calculate the molar mass for like a really complicated chemical formula. And you know, then they’re going to apply that and do some dimensional analysis, or they’re going to do some strike with looking at fuel and rockets, or, you know, fuel in a race car, and they’re going to look at how you know, kidney stones and the size of them, and what size will determine the treatment plan, they’re going to do strike when they do it. Okay, so I really want to encourage you to make it meaningful for them. I think sometimes we watered down the problems, so that they’re the simplest math possible, so that they don’t feel overwhelmed, and they look at the problem. When in actuality, by doing that, we make it harder, because there’s no context and there’s no meaning. So don’t feel like you need to water down every practice problem and make it you know, this really simple, find the maths from the moles of this, yes, that’s important that we’re getting started that as they start growing, and practicing more and more, let’s give them some meaningful practice problems, that will also interest them too. I tried to make mine a little humorous, I tried to put in little things that will make them laugh or you know, get their attention, I like to catch them off guard. Okay, so I really encourage you to do that as well. Alright, so those are my six tips for teaching story. Like, I want you to teach dimensional analysis and scientific notation early. And then I want you to review them, when you start your story unit before you dive into true story calculations that I want you to start the unit off by helping them understand them all, please help them wrap their minds around that. And then I want you to scaffold all of your calculations, teach them one at a time and then build upon it and do all the practice says I want you to incorporate food, or just some fun labs for them that will really just help them make this unit more enjoyable. And not something they look back on say that was the hardest unit ever. They’re like, well, maybe it was hard. But we also got to eat Oreos and make hot chocolate. And then we we roasted the s’mores and then we you know, make it something really memorable. And then last, make it meaningful, give them real world problems, give them context for the chemistry, I promise it’ll make a difference. And I hope that these kinds of tips encourage you as you’re planning out your storage unit for hopefully next semester. And I want to encourage you to also tune back in next week, we’re going to wrap up this series of difficult topics to teach talking about physics. And I’m bringing in a special guest to talk about this with me. So stay tuned. And if you want to check out any of those resources I mentioned, you can check the links in the show notes, which can be found at it’s not rocket science. classroom.com/episode 101. And lastly, I would love it if you’re listening. If you are a chemistry teacher. Stop right now. Give this podcast a five star rating and write a review it would encourage me so much to hear from you. All right, teacher friends. That wraps up today’s episode. If you’re looking for an easy way to start simplifying your life as a secondary science teacher, head to It’s not rocket science classroom.com/challenge to grab your classroom reset challenge. And guess what? It’s totally free. Thanks so much for tuning in and I’ll see you here next week. Until then, I’ll be rooting for you teacher friend.

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