Using Google Docs to Jazz up a Mole Challenge

By | November 20, 2010

Last year, I gave my students a mole challenge. It was rather simple: I gave the class 6 ziploc bags containing different elements, labeled with the number of moles inside (as well as an empty bag to “tare”). Students would bring me their proposed identities, and I’d tell them how many out of 6 were correct. The main source of error in this lab has always been careful use of the lab balances.

This year, I prepared a Google Spreadsheet.

Using the “Change colors based on rules…” option under the Format menu, I set each entry cell background color to change based on input.

When the students completed their measurements and calculations, they entered their predictions in to the spreadsheet. When they entered a correct response, the cell turns green. If their response was incorrect, it turns red.

Compared to previous years, their follow up discussions centered more on experimental error than on faulty calculations. Quickly, they return to perform more careful measurements, redo their calculations, and make a second prediction.

A very simple modification made the experience a little more efficient, exciting and challenging.


Claire Thompson on November 20, 2010 at 8:04 pm.

I only just noticed the “Change colors based on rules” option in Google Docs the other day–I love how you’ve used it here!


Michelle on November 21, 2010 at 1:38 am.

What a great idea! I hadn’t seen that option and now you’ve got me thinking about how I could use it with my math classes – thanks for sharing :)


Mustafa on January 8, 2011 at 12:47 pm.

I have recently discovered your website. I really liked your idea. I think collaboration helps students to understand the topics in a great fashion. Best part of Google Docs is lots of students can work at the same time and see the result simultaneously. Great post



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