Session S56b (Wednesday, 2pm, Osmond 101)

P756: You get to choose: Chemistry-first or atoms-first

Mark Bishop (Monterey Peninsula College, USA)

When I first decided to write an introductory chemistry text (An Introduction to Chemistry), one of my goals was to rearrange the usual order of presentation to get to the description of chemical reactions early. In part, I accomplished this goal by postponing chemical calculations, but this approach also involved an abbreviated introduction to atoms, elements, chemical bonding, and molecular structure before the description of chemical changes and a return to cover these topics more completely later. Although I am still enthusiastic about this approach, I could always see the benefit of presenting a more systematic simple-to-complex approach. This led me to writing an atoms-first version of my book. The rationale for the atoms-first approach is that a more complete understanding of atomic theory provides a better basis for understanding chemical bonding and structures of chemical compounds. Likewise, a more complete understanding of compounds helps students to gain a more sophisticated understanding of the changes that take place in chemical reactions. I’ll describe the pros and cons of the two approaches to introductory chemistry with an emphasis on the atoms-first approach. You can get more information and see the electronic forms of both books at


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