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General Science and Teaching

Free online learning games for balancing chemical equations and learning the elements

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Sue Dunn Sue Dunn 40 Points

Hi if you are scrambling to find online activities in case schools close, I'd like to suggest my Chembalancer chemistry game and Element Quiz game at FunBasedLearning.com. They are both free and do not require registration. The Chembalancer game has instruction built in and works great - all my former grade 9 students learned to balance chemical equations in half in hour. It's super easy to grade too - just have them send you a screenshot of the final page showing they completed the activities.

Charissa Barnhill Charissa Barnhill 1644 Points

There is also a decent balacning chemical equtions activity as a phET lab simulation. You can easily find and uplaod a worksheet that goes along with it, but it provides student with visuals and immediate feedback on if their equation is balanced correctly or not. It works on chromebooks, too which is great! 

Jennifer Toy Jennifer Toy 715 Points

Thank you so much for these resources! Although I like balancing chemical equations myself, I find it so difficult to teach this topic to students! Also, they often get really frustrated because it is difficult for them so having fun activities or games will help to keep their engagement of the topic up. 

Jennifer Toy Jennifer Toy 715 Points

Hi, thanks for the resource! I was wondering if you have any tips for how to teach balancing equations? I myself struggle with how to teach it to students sometimes on the more difficult equations. I found that many of my students struggled with it as well. Is there any step by step guides that students can follow to solve the equations? 

Thanks 

Sue Dunn Sue Dunn 40 Points

Teaching balancing equations with a lecture is tough because no matter how well you explain it abstractly, only the students who have entered Piaget's formal/abstract reasoning stage can understand the explanation. Those students still in Piaget's concrete operational stage just can't understand what you're saying. And as more advanced science gets pushed down to younger and younger ages, that doesn't help at all.
So, basically instead of teaching it as an abstract lecture, what you need is to have an activity with concrete manipulatives so those still at the concrete operational state can understand it. When I lectured, about 50% of my grade 9 students understood it after 3 40 minute blocks of instruction. Then I tried worksheets with cutout of the molecules and comprehension rose to about 60% over the same time period - the directions about coefficients and subscripts was too complicated to follow. So I wrote my Chembalancer game to simplify the directions. In the game, they can only change the coefficients and the computer draws out the diagrams for each molecule.
With the game, it make it super clear exactly what they were supposed to do and they could see the drawings instantly as soon as they changed the coefficients and count up the number of atoms on each side of the equation. Everyone understood balancing chemical equations in just half an hour of instruction. Even students who had done poorly on earlier foundational concepts (ex. difficulty drawing the structure of a molecule like Na2SO4) someone seemed to get it and then could draw both the molecule and balance chemical equations after playing the game.
It's not your technique. It's the need for concrete manipulatives. Try the game. All you have to do it tell them to start playing and type in all one's for the coefficients and then play with the numbers as directed in the "How to play the game" link. They get it pretty quickly. If they make a mistake like 2O2 + 4H2 -> 4H2O, the game will tell them "There are the same number of atoms on each side, but your answer is not in lowest terms. Please put your answer in lowest terms and then click the Balanced button."
If after mastering the easier equations on Classic Chembalancer (only the last question is hard), you want them to practice balancing the hard equations, have them play Brain Boggle Chembalancer in which all the questions are hard.
All games are always free and no login is required at FunBasedLearning.com

Zach Millan Zach Millan 609 Points

What an interesting website to help students learn how to balance chemical equations! We're at the point in the year where we prep students for 8th grade physical science, so having exposure to learning how to balance chemical equations would give my students an advantage before walking into their next year's class. This seems like it would keep students interested in learning how to balance chemical equations and become proficient in the skill in the process.

Mason Gotto Mason Gotto 2640 Points

As I am on my journey to becoming a teacher, I had to take a physical science course. Websites like the ones mentioned helped me a great deal in refreshing my memory of content and learning deeper about the content I will be teaching. This was a great resource for me, therefore I know it will be a great resource for students! 

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