Submitted by Dave Roberts / DePauw University on Thu, 12/16/2010 - 11:47

Hi all,


A quick introduction.  I am a part-time assistant professor at DePauw University, where I teach various levels of college students.  My training is protein crystallography, but I have been a chemical educator for a long time (and getting longer by the year, sigh).  I also volunteer and teach a chemistry II class at our local high school, so I interact with a wide range of levels during a typical day.

Students of all ages struggle with inorganic nomenclature.  One day I decided to make up a card game, and I was just curious to see if others have tried something similar.  I'm wanting to actually make a real deck of cards like this, and so I was hoping that by asking a larger audience we could get some extra data points.

Very simple idea and game.  I took a standard deck of cards.  A-7 represent cations (so A's could be cobalt II for example).  All aces were the same cation (so you would have 4 cobalt II's in the deck).  To make it trick, 2 of the cations could be written as Co+2 and the other 2 as the name (cobalt II), and one could mix and match if needed (to form Cobalt II phosphate for example).  

8-K represented anions - same rules.

The goal is to basically play a game similar to gin.  Instead of making pairs and runs, we are making valid chemical compounds (so FeCl3 for example).  I didn't figure out any statistics, it seemed to me to be the same as the probability of getting all 4 2's in a deck as one would do in gin.  Deal everybody 7 cards, (or 11, or whatever), first one out wins.  


There are many variations here.  I did it with all the cards having the symbol (so Fe+3).  Then, when a they went out, they had to name their compounds (and everybody had to agree).

For my game, I wrote on the board what the substitutions were (so, I simply wrote A = Fe+3, 2 = Co+2, etc...) so the game can be different every time.  Though I wouldn't mind making a large deck of cards and drawing 52 from it (so make a uber deck of cards, with 20 cations and 20 anions, or something like that, and then draw from that and make say 3 smaller decks for the day - then one could mix/match the decks).

Any thoughts (good or bad, I thought it would be a great exercise for the first day or two of class, or something students could come borrow and play on their own time).  For high school, it might be a good lab one day (not really a lab, just a fun activity).  I probably will use it for a week, I don't know