Summer Research Program for Science Teachers

Shalton Colquhoun

Spring Valley High School


Chemical Formulas

This lesson was designed using the New York State Standards to enhance the understanding of the structure of molecules, their formula and percentage composition of each element in the compound.  Working at Fordham University with Dr. Beer and attending the Partners in Science Conference in Tucson, Arizona in January 2000, were instrumental in helping me designing this lesson plan.

The students will use a modeling kit to design the structure of an organic compound with different functional groups, which will determine if it is an alcohol, ketone, ester, alderhyde, etc.  [Content Standard Unifying Concepts- Models and explanation] The different color balls will indicate the type of atoms being used.  Upon completion, they will be instructed to go to and [Teaching Standard D- Make accessible science media] to draw 3-dimensional structures. 

In addition, there are different features that they will be able to use to manipulate the structure.  Finally, by knowing the chemical composition of the compound, the students will be asked to calculate the formula mass and the percentage composition of the compound and check their answer against their result by using the website:  [9-12 Content Standard E- Understandings about science and technology]


Aim: Students should be able to construct, write the chemical formula and calculate the percentage composition of a compound. [9-12 Content Standard B- Structure and properties of matter]


Motivation: Students will be given the name of a compound and they should be able to construct and write the formula of the compound.


Materials: Pen or pencil, computer, calculator, molecular modeling kit and notebook.


Procedure: Students will individually show the structure of their compound using the molecular modeling kit.  When it is completed, the students will use the computer to draw and construct a 3-dimensional structure of the compound from a given website.  They will be instructed on the different functions that are available to manipulate the structure of the compound.  Finally, the students will calculate the percentage composition of the compound and check the accuracy of their calculation at a specific website.


Assessment: Students will be assessed based on their ability to write, construct, and calculate the percentage composition of any given compound. 


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