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Why Is Chemistry Hard ?

Chem-is-Try and Try is Time...

by Rod Smith

Science Text

Why is chemistry so hard*?


Chemistry is found in all subjects you study in school.  Chemistry explains “how and why” most things happen. Below are actual problems from your text to demonstrate how chemistry involves subjects throughout the school curriculum.


Text Used at Jeff West:  Chemistry – Matter and Change,   

                                           published by Glencoe McGraw-Hill  © 2002


 Everything in quotes (“) taken from Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (c) 1973.


         HARD (adverb):  “with great or utmost effort energy”


              GREAT “large in number”


                   UTMOST “the greatest or highest degree, quantity, number or amount”



ART -- the “conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects”.  Example from chemistry text: Use the color  wheel to predict the color of Bi 2 O3  (p219 -- #3)


ENGLISH -- the study of “the language of the people of England and the United States”.  Example: Critigue Molina and Rowland’s hypothesis of ozone depletion as to its strengths and weaknesses. (p13 # 13)  . . . The glossary in your text contains 441 chemistry terms – if you scan them you will discover  you don’t know most of them before chemistry… Research suggests you will learn more NEW vocabulary in chemistry than any other course of study in high school  !


HISTORY -- the study of “a chronological record of significant events usually including an explanation of their causes”.  Example:  What was Dmitri Mendeleev’s major contribution to the field of chemistry ?  (p83 -- #55)


BUSINESS -- the study of “commercial or mercantile activity engaged in as a means of livelihood”. Example:  Suppose the USDA data were altered to exclude farmers who raise livestock. Predict how this change would affect expenditures for fertilizer and lime as a percent of total expenses.   (p83 – Thinking Critically #4)


BIOLOGY -- the study of “a branch of knowledge that deals with living organisms and vital processes”. Example:  Why do you suppose that 2-propanol is a component in some products used to soothe sunburned skin ?  (page 767 – Real-World Chemistry #4) … What two cellular processes are important parts of the carbon cycle ? (p861 -- #18)


NUTRITION (HEALTH) --  Example from your chemistry text: Yeast is used in baking bread because the carbon dioxide bubbles make the bread rise.  The other product of alcoholic fermentation is ethanol.  Why can’t you taste this alcohol when you eat bread ? (p797–Real-World Chemistry #1)


MATHEMATICS -- the study of “numbers and their operations, interrelations, combinations, generalizations, and abstractions and of space configurations and their structure, measurement, transformations, and generalizations”.Example: A furnace that provides heat by burning methane gas (CH4 ) must have the correct mixture of air and fuel to operate efficiently. What is the mole ratio of air to methane gas in the combustion of methane ? Hint: Air is 20% oxygen.  (p375 – Real-World Chemistry #1)


INDUSTRIAL ARTS -- the study of “developing manual skill and familiarity with tools and machines”. Example: Automobile air bags inflate on impact because a series of gas-producing chemical reactions are triggered. To be effective in saving lives, the bags must not overinflate or underinflate. What factors must automotive engineers take into account in the design of air bags ?  (p375 – Real-World Chemistry #2)


Chemistry examples can be found in  ALL  the different courses and things you study or do !!


CHEM-IS-TRY  is  ALL  of the previous subjects plus others … combined in one course


The bottom line to success in chemistry…


1)      Chemistry will likely REQUIRE more time than any other class you

             take in high school.


2)      ALL  STUDENTS are capable of being successful in chemistry,

             given enough time !


3)      Lack of success in chemistry is almost always a lack of time …

             whether time during class (attendance), time doing practice

             outside of class (homework), time needed in previous classes 

             to master basics (prerequisite classes / experiences).










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