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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

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Abstract Volume 4 Issue 5 (1999) pp 158-167

Studentsí Microscopic, Macroscopic, and Symbolic Representations of Chemical Reactions

Michael E. Hinton and Mary B. Nakhleh*

Deerfield High School, Deerfield, IL 60015 and Department of Chemistry, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907

Published online: 1 October 1999

Abstract. This study examined the mental representations of chemical reactions used by six students (three male, three female) who achieved above-average grades in a college freshman chemistry class at a large midwestern university. The representations expressed by the students in structured interviews were categorized as microscopic, macroscopic, or symbolic representations of chemical reactions. The study revealed that the participants did make at least some use of each of the three representations; however, there were wide variations among participants in the sophistication of the various representations they used and in their understanding of the relationships between representations. Also, participants receiving very similar course grades sometimes demonstrated very different conceptual understandings of chemical reactions.

Key Words:  In the Classroom; chemical reactions; symbolic representation; macroscopic representation; microscopic representation; balancing equations; misconceptions

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Issue date: October 1, 1999

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