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2002 Summer ConfChem: Problem Solving in Chemistry

06/09/02 to 06/10/02
Doug Cameron Professor of Chemistry, Montana Tech Butte, MT 59701 Peter Lykos Professor of Chemistry, Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago, IL 60616-3793

Conference Articles

Abstracts of Papers:

Fred Garafalo1, Rick Toomey2

1School of Arts & Sciences, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

179 Longwood Ave., Boston, MA     02115,

2Department of Chemistry and Physics, Northwest Missouri State University

800 University Dr., Maryville, MO 64468,


The first part of this presentation, encourages readers to reflect upon their own problem-solving strategies by answering the five questions in Problem Set 1. (Of course this and the other activities are optional.) A set of possible solutions that represents a range
of traditional approaches to the five questions is then presented, along with some potential sources of difficulty that they may pose for
novice problem solvers. Next, in Problem Set 2, a second set of problems is presented and discussed, which anticipates an approach that might be used in guiding students to become better quantitative problem solvers. The approach, based on the ideas of Arons (ref 1), is then introduced, and Problem Set 1 is revisited. The final part of the presentation describes insights gained by experimenting with this
approach during the past ten years, and some of the resulting modifications that have been made in the freshman chemistry curriculum (ref

Aline M. (“Lindy”) Harrison
York College of Pennsylvania


In 1975, E.A. Harrison, Jr. and I published a note (that was all they would accept!) in J Chem Ed titled “A Non-Lecture Approach to Organic Chemistry.”[1] We reported providing lecture notes to our students in advance of a class and requiring students to copy or to outline those notes prior to the class. This insured at least nominal pre-class exposure to the material. In-class lectures were reduced to short explanations and the class time gained was used to follow-up explanations with in-class problem solving and other student –centered learning activities that could be varied to accommodate the many different learning styles that we saw in our students.

Mary B. Nakhleh
Department of Chemistry
Purdue University


Douglas Cameron, Chemistry & Geochemistry Department,
Montana Tech of the University of Montana, Butte, MT 59701,


As a vehicle to start a general discussion on problem solving in chemistry, this paper presents a course that I taught for six years. This course evolved over the years as I learned more about learning. In the process, I incorporated much of the course material into my teaching in my other classes. As a consequence, my problem solving class has now evolved into a preparatory class for students taking entrance exams to professional schools. An outline of the final iteration of the problem solving course and some examples are given in the following pages.