What I Learned: Day 4 and 5 of AP Workshop

By | July 30, 2014

All textbooks are not created equal (though a few are very similar)

As is typical in these sorts of workshops, I ended up with about 500 lbs of free textbooks. In addition to the typical (Zumdahl, Brown/LeMay) I got to look at a few that I hadn’t heard of or considered before.  My favorite among the shiny doorstops was Gilbert’s. However, the book that I’ll probably read the most myself is Principles of Chemistry by Michael Munowitz. He’s a science writer, and clearly has a passion for chemistry, that comes through in his writing. Unlike the others, it is written for those who want to gain a deep, conceptual understanding of chemistry, rather than focusing on problem solving techniques. If you teach chemistry, you should definitely add this book to your shelf. It isn’t great for intro-level high school students, or even most AP students, but it will help you as a teacher find more and better ways to explain the more abstract aspects of chemistry. I can’t find sample pages online, but here’s a review from JChemEd that will give you more info on it. Here’s a glimpse, from chapter 3 (Prototypical Reactions)

“Humpty Dumpty’s great fall tells it all. He falls from the wall and breaks into pieces, never to be mended. He goes from high gravitational energy to low, and he changes from a single, orderly arrangement into scattered, disordered bits and pieces. Lower energy. Higher entropy. Lower free energy.

“Molecules, like Humpty Dumpty, also take the easy road, the road that leads to less energy and more disorder. Only if the reactants can decrease their free energy will a reaction occur on its own, for only then is the transformation profitable. The larger the drop in free energy, the more thoroughly do the reactants combine to form products. A lower free energy is the thermodynamic profit that nature demands to convert A and B into C and D.”

That’s it for the workshop. I’ve left a few things out. There were a couple of really good labs that I will definitely do this year. I’ll post more on the baggie lab and also on the thermodynamics lab in a later post (hopefully while at BCCE). I hoped that we’d have time to share resources with the other participants, but the workshop was a little too short.

I, again, definitely recommend taking an AP workshop at Hogwarts Taft TEC. It’s no way as fulfilling as a good modeling workshop, but it is a pretty good way to spend a week or two of your summer. Just be sure to bring an extra suitcase.



Valarie J. Robinson on October 2, 2014 at 9:43 am.

Great Work in this Post! And Perfectly executed as giving the perfect examples of Humpty Dumpty and the bets part was that comparing molecules with the Humpty Dumpty that is very great! Thanks for sharing this and hope for many more…


Anthony on October 26, 2014 at 4:13 pm.

Thanks for the advice on books for chemistry teachers! It may be obvious to think about “considerate texts” for the students, but once in a while it’s important that there’s reading material for the teacher. Teachers will be forever learning. Well, an effective teacher that is. I hope I can learn how to get 500 lbs of free textbooks! Please share the details on that.


Ronda Waters on March 17, 2015 at 8:50 pm.

I liked the using Humpty Dumpty. I am always looking for ways to relate the abstract into things that my students are already familiar. I am interested in seeing more posts about the textbooks. I am very frustrated with the chemistry book at my high school. It is way above most of my students” ability to understand how the material is presented. I have bought many help books and created many visuals from everyday items to help my students understand the abstract. I am in search of a good chemistry book that will help my students and myself continue our chemistry education. Thank you for sharing.



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