PhET Provides Interactive Learning for Chemistry

PhET does not stand for Physics Education Technology. Once upon a time it did, but not since they branched out into learning tools for other subjects like chemistry. The PhET team at the University of Colorado in Boulder has long set the standard for online simulations for the sciences.

Their Flash simulations provide learning opportunities both for the chemistry classroom and for the student at home struggling to understand a concept. I picked through their catalogue of free chemistry sims in order to review a selection of what they offer. Continue reading

Dimensional Analysis Made Easy

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck 557 kilograms per hour, in an eight hour work day. Give answer in megatonnes.

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck 15.5 kilograms per minute in an eight hour work day? Give answer in megatonnes.

Dimensional analysis is not the first thing Mr. Spock does when the Starship Enterprise accidentally travels into a new universe or timeline. That is not what we’re here to learn about today.

Unfortunately. Because that sounds interesting.

Instead, we have what is also commonly called “the factor-label method” and simply “unit conversion.” Dimensional analysis is the method that is used to get an answer in the correct units of measurement in problems relating to math, chemistry, and other physical sciences. At its most simple, it can be solving how many minutes are in two hours, or, on the more complex end, it can be finding how many moles there are in three cubic meters of argon.

So are you stuck on your homework? We’ve assembled a few resources to help you with the factor label method. Continue reading

A Free Online Toolkit for Math and Science Courses

Desmos Calculator, courtesy of

Desmos Calculator, courtesy of

We’ve assembled an online set of tools for use by a teacher or tutor looking for high quality free resources, or by a student who needs a little math, physics, or chemistry homework help. The following resources have been selected by our editors as representing the best of what is offered freely on the Internet. Continue reading

Sig Fig Rules!–Master Your Significant Digits Here (A Learning Game Contest Example)

[Edit 09.05.13] SigFig is now accessible through our primary chemistry learning web app, Study Putty.

In the preceding weeks we launched our Learning Game Contest, seeking submissions of science/math learning game concepts and offering the prize of a $100 Amazon or iTunes gift card along with the chance of seeing that idea implemented in a playable game. With the intention of demonstrating the sort of concept we’re looking for, and to show how your concept could become a working game, we recently published Sig Fig Rules! online.

If you have ever taken a chemistry course, whether in high school or college, you may remember the lesson on significant digits. If your response to being asked to identify significant and insignificant digits was, like mine, “Discrimination! Who am I to tell a number his existence is insignificant?” you, like me, might have benefited from a learning tool such as this. Continue reading

Lewis Dot Learning Resources

Lewis structure for Water

Whether you are a student, trying to master the drawing of Lewis Dot (aka electron dot or electron structure) diagrams for the first time, or a teacher, trying to find some resources to spice up or reinforce your classroom lectures, a lack of Google search results is likely not your problem!  Depending on your search terms, you may get 1,000,000 hits.  With so much information, how do you filter through the results (or even the first page or two) and find exactly what you are looking for without wasting all of your study or class prep-time trying to narrow them down?

That is where we come in. The purpose of this page is to give you a helping hand in finding the best Lewis Dot resources. We’ve identified what we believe are some of the best examples of written, video and learning activities for learning Lewis structures. Each resource type has the potential to improve learning about Lewis dot diagrams in a different way depending on your teaching or learning style and/or students’ needs. Your reactions may be different — so if you disagree with our assessments or think we’ve missed a hidden gem, please leave a comment and share the Lewis dot love, so to speak. Continue reading