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Jesse Tye, Ball State University
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Joined: 01/05/2013 - 2:09pm

Calculations in Chemistry / Cognitive Load Theory

I am thinking of trying Daum and Nelson's Calculations in Chemistry workbook.  A main idea of the workbook is Cognitive Load Theory and getting students to move concepts from short term to long term memory.  A major tenet of the workbook is the idea that memorization of equations and certain constants IS an important step in moving concepts into long term memory.

I would love your input about the Calculations in Chemistry workbook or Cognitive Load Theory in general.

Kate Plass, Franklin & Marshall College
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Joined: 01/15/2009 - 9:01am

Hello,

Several members of my department worked to create a series of math resources for students in general chemistry based on their performance on a math assessment we designed. We asked students to review Calculations in Chemistry and discussed using it. My recollection of our thoughts were...

1) We are all-in on the idea that certain skills need to become automatic (low cognitive load) if you are going to ask students to focus their intellectual efforts on more advanced problem-solving. This does require memorization of some equations, constants, and processes through repetitive practice.

2) We did not choose to use the book. Even though we want student's efforts to result in an automatic chunk of knowledge, we did not think the "just memorize it" learning strategy was the best way to get there. We looked for resources that helped students better think through and understand the problem-solving processes. 

I have attached the resource sheet we developed.

Hope this helps!

Jesse Tye, Ball State University
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Joined: 01/05/2013 - 2:09pm

Thank you.  What is done with  the students that score poorly on the math assessment?  Do they have additional requirements to stay in the course or are they just advised that they need to improve their math skills?

 

Kate Plass, Franklin & Marshall College
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Joined: 01/15/2009 - 9:01am

You are welcome. 

We have conflicting data about whether our math assessment predicts that students will struggle in the course. Some students who do poorly on the math still do great in the course (perhaps they just needed a refresher?). Those who do most poorly in the class, however, often did poorly on the math assessment (particularly algebra). We are coupling this data with some other ongoing assessments to try to figure out how to better intervene. 

The math assessment we have done the last several years was one designed by our department and tutoring center specifically for chemistry. It is given in the chemistry course in the first 2 weeks of first semester, so students are already enrolled. Last academic year, we provided students with their scores, the resources previously posted, and offered a math review "study jam" with the tutors. Few students followed up on offers of help or reported back that they used the resources. This year, we will additionally provide faculty with scores so we can work directly with students, give specific recommendations, etc. 

FYI We do have a math requirement for the course. Students placed into pre-calculus (based on pre-course enrollment assessment) are excluded from taking general chemistry until they complete it. The ~1 student each year who would try was highly unlikely to pass the course. 

Katherine Nicole Crowder, University of Mary Washington
Katherine Nicole Crowder, University of Mary Washington's picture
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Joined: 02/09/2012 - 12:00pm

Kate,

Would you mind posting your math assessment and the math resource as word files? I'd love to compare your math assessment to the one that we use, and the other file looks awesome, but I would need to edit it in order to use it, since we are no longer going to use Mastering Chemistry.

Looks like a ready-made LO...

Thanks! Nicole