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AP Chemistry – Day 1

Unlike most AP Chem teachers, I begin with Reactions on Day 1.  The sooner they can get down reactions, the more fun AP Chemistry becomes and the more they start to tie in other topics during the year with the reactions.

I boil reactions down to 4 types (absolutely different from Chem I but easier to categorize):

  • C – Complex, Combustion, Combination, Decomposition
  • R – Redox
  • A – Acid-Base
  • P – Precipitation

And so in reactions being ultimately CRAP, I begin with the Precipitation reactions which are easiest to recognize and easiest to write.  And on the first day of school, I give them a few things to know about precipitation reactions (nitrates and alkali metal ions do not ever precipitate with anything) and them start them off on an absolutely open-ended lab where they have to logically determine the identity of unknowns. 

Any logical person could easily do this lab, but it takes a systematic process and problem solving to complete it.  I give them literally no help at all and only question them as they go along.  Totally unlike any other class with the “memorize this, and regurgitate it in two days.”

At first glance, my students are thinking:

  1. This is impossible
  2. I suck big time for answering their questions with a question
  3. Not sure whether they should have taken this class

But by 20-30 minutes into it, there comes a breakthrough…groups start to have students saying “Oh, I get it…that’s so easy…I got it Mr. Ayton!!!”  This ends up being a lab that all the students love in which they learned how to think and problem solve.