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CBE Life Sci Educ. 2013 Jun 1;12(2):306-12. doi: 10.1187/cbe.12-10-0170.

The trouble with chemical energy: why understanding bond energies requires an interdisciplinary systems approach.

Author information

1
Department of Chemistry, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA. mmc@msu.edu

Abstract

Helping students understand "chemical energy" is notoriously difficult. Many hold inconsistent ideas about what energy is, how and why it changes during the course of a chemical reaction, and how these changes are related to bond energies and reaction dynamics. There are (at least) three major sources for this problem: 1) the way biologists talk about chemical energy (which is also the way we talk about energy in everyday life); 2) the macroscopic approach to energy concepts that is common in physics and physical sciences; and 3) the failure of chemistry courses to explicitly link molecular with macroscopic energy ideas. From a constructivist perspective, it is unlikely that students can, without a coherent understanding of such a central concept, attain a robust and accurate understanding of new concepts. However, changes are on the horizon, guided by the increasing understanding that difficult concepts require coherent, well-designed learning progressions and the new National Research Council Framework for K-12 Science Education. We provide supporting evidence for our assertions and suggestions for an interdisciplinary learning progression designed to better approach the concept of bond energies, a first step in an understanding chemical energy and behavior of reaction systems that is central to biological systems.

PMID:
23737636
PMCID:
PMC3671656
DOI:
10.1187/cbe.12-10-0170
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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