Balancing Chemical Equations Games & Activities

Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

More than many things in chemistry, balancing chemical equations requires a large amount of consistent practice. Try out a few of these games and activities to help keep your students focused as they improve their skills.

Balancing Chemical Equations Activities and Games

Balancing chemical equations is nothing but simple math and proportion. However that doesn't mean people don't struggle with it. Unlike many topics in math, it isn't simply about following a procedure. Success in balancing equations requires logical thinking, and adapting to the particular situation you're facing. Most of all, it takes practice. We need to make sure students get as much practice as they can.

Since students tend to get bored doing the same kinds of problems over and over again, it's incumbent upon us to find ways of making it engaging and interesting. This can be done by replacing the worksheet with activities and games, at least some of the time. In this lesson, will provide just a few ideas for ways that balancing equations can be made fun and productive for students.

Candy Balancing

Students tend to love anything that involves candy, even if the activity is essentially the same as it would be without it. For this activity, give students candy to represent atoms, and toothpicks to connect those atoms together. You could use marshmallows, skittles, M&Ms, or jellybeans. Softer candy is easier to use, but it's important to have lots of colors available, and this can sometimes be hard to find with marshmallows.

Whatever you use, the goal is for students to build the molecules on one side of the equation, and by attempting to rearrange them to form a molecule on the right side of the equation, they can figure out how the equation will balance - how many molecules of each thing that they will need. Students should use a different color of candy for each type of atom. It's essentially a hands-on way of balancing chemical equations. Only when students have fully completed all of the questions can they eat the candy. If nothing else, it will get them to focus on completing the work.

Change One, Move One

For this activity, you'll need to place unbalanced chemical equations at different points on the classroom wall, making a complete circle. Have students work in pairs or groups. Pairs are ideal; however, you will need one equation on the wall for each pair or group. If this is not possible, you can use larger groups. To start, students are randomly assigned to one of the equations on the wall. They must look at the equation, try to balance it in their head or on scratch paper, and then add or change any one number in the equation. For example, they could put a three next to water, or they could change a 2 next to hydrogen into a 4.

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