Deanna Silva, Christopher Bauer (University of New Hampshire, USA)
Ionic precipitation reactions are an important concept for understanding solution chemistry. The corresponding symbolic chemical equations convey a lot of information. It is often observed that general chemistry students have more difficulty than one might expect in composing ionic precipitation reactions on paper. However, it is unknown whether the problem lies with students’ understanding of what is happening in solution or if they do not understand the technical aspects of writing ionic precipitation reactions. To investigate this issue, general chemistry students voluntarily participated in individual think-aloud semi-structured interviews about precipitation reactions and what they think is happening when two ionic solutions are mixed. A SmartPen simultaneously recorded student written work and verbal comments. What is learned in this study may provide insight regarding how to help students make sense of both symbolic equation writing and the molecular-level processes associated with ionic solutions and precipitation.