Some Like it Hot

Heat map

In my class, I use the illustration of a mountain to help students push through the challenges of chemistry. Stoichiometry is the top of chemistry mountain. As we progress through the year, I say things like “the mountain is getting steep here!” or “there is not a lot of oxygen up here!” or “I will carry you up chemistry mountain if I have to!” to keep students motivated. When students finally get to the top of chemistry mountain (mid quarter 3), the air is thin, they are tired and they are ready to base jump off the mountain (see illustration from a former student below).



Stoichiometry is a tough subject. It requires students to synthesize almost everything they have learned up to this point in the class: bonding, moles, balanced equations, gas laws and a whole lot of proportional reasoning. Some students can sprint to the top of the mountain while others will claw and scrape their face all the way to the top. This means there is a large need for differentiated practice.

Towards the end of my stoichiometry unit, I like to give students practice with all types of stoichiometry problems (moles → moles, mass → mass, mass → volume, etc). I typically give students the worksheet “Samples of Every Kind of Problem” from the Modeling Instruction™ curriculum for this. The problem is my students are burnt out on practice and worksheets at this point. Additionally, some students still need practice with the basics while others are ready for a challenge.

In my last post, I mentioned a presentation I went to at the Ohio School Improvement Institute this past fall. Another take away from this presentation was a self-differentiated practice activity called “heat maps.” I made my first heat map for my stoichiometry unit this year. It looked like this:

The question numbers refer back to a worksheet I gave the students (mostly from “Samples of Every Kind of Problem” with a few extra challenges I dug around for on the internet). Problems in blue are basic mole → mole stoichiometry. As you get “hotter” on the heat map, problems get more difficult, ending with a challenge problem that involves gas laws, molarity and percent yield. Students worked through problems to find the right “temperature” for them.

The only stipulations I gave students were they had to be working the whole time and I gave them an idea of where they should end up on the heat map to demonstrate mastery on their Friday assessment. Students were given the option to work on the heat map more for homework if they needed extra practice but it was not required.

This was a really simple way to spice up extra practice. My students who found themselves about to fall off chemistry mountain could get a hand up while my avid mountain climbers could sprint to the top! A heat map could be used with any topic when you feel like you need a day of extra practice but a one-size-fits-all worksheet won’t cut it.

If you want to try this out in your classroom, I attached a Word document template to get you started! Just download, fill in the question numbers from a worksheet you probably already use, and you are on your way!