Date of Award

5-2011

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Teaching

Advisor

François Amar

Second Committee Member

Mitchell Bruce

Third Committee Member

Natasha Speer

Abstract

There is a general consensus that algebra knowledge is necessary and beneficial to a student's understanding and performance in Chemistry. This is particularly seen in stoichiometry, the aspect of chemistry dealing with quantities, ratios, and balance within chemical equations. This thesis seeks to study student's application of connections between algebra and stoichiometry, and their understanding of these connections. The study data consisted of 55 questionnaires completed by introductory general chemistry students selected from five lab sections during the fall 2009 semester, and 6 interviews conducted during the spring 2010 semester. Quantitative questionnaire data was used to determine trends in the data, and gave information on student abilities with stoichiometry problems, similar algebraic problems, and problems combining the two disciplines. Qualitative data received through student interviews was used to give additional insight into student thoughts and opinions about algebra within stoichiometry and the connections that exist between the two disciplines. Results indicate that even though students participating in this study appear to have a working understanding of algebra, many of them do not think algebra and stoichiometry are related. In addition to this, the majority of those who did show some awareness of connections saw them on an operational level, rather than conceptual. This simply means that they applied algebraic knowledge to stoichiometric problems, thus exhibiting an awareness of connection. Also, there appeared to be a disconnect between what students said verbally about their understanding or belief in connections between algebra and stoichiometry, and their written answers. Overall, students behaved as expected from literature and showed varied levels of understanding and application of the connection between algebra and stoichiometry.

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