AP Chemistry

Advanced Placement Chemistry is a course designed to prepare students for the AP Chemistry exam.  The course addresses the equivalent of one full year of college level General Chemistry.  It is a rigorous, math-based course, with a significant laboratory component.  It is intended for students who are willing to commit considerable time to studying and completing assignments outside of class and who have successfully completed a prior course in high school level (introductory) Chemistry.  The key concepts and related content that define the AP Chemistry course and exam are organized around underlying principles called the Big Ideas. They encompass core scientific principles, theories, and processes that cut across traditional boundaries and provide a broad way of thinking about the particulate nature of matter underlying the observations students make about the physical world.


On this page I will document units that encorporate my philosophy and approach to teaching and assessing.  

AP Chemistry Unit 1

Scientific Measurement, Data Collection, and Photospectroscopy


NGSS Standards:

HS-PS1-3. Plan and conduct an investigation to gather evidence to compare the structure of substances at the bulk scale to infer the strength of electrical forces between particles.

Essential Questions:

How do scientists record observations?  What are the processes that scientists use to answer scientific questions? What are the physical and chemical properties of water that make it especially important in chemical processes? How does the structure and arrangement of atoms, ions, and molecules explain chemical and physical properties? What are some of the essential measurement skills necessary for the study of chemical process?


Enduring Understandings (From College Board AP Chemistry)

1.A All matter is made of atoms. There are a limited number of atoms, these are the elements.

1.D: Atoms are so small that they are difficult to study directly; atomic models are constructed to explain experimental data on collections of atoms.

2.A: Matter can be described by its physical properties. The physical properties of a substance generally depend on the spacing between the particles (atoms, molecules, ions) that make up the substance and the forces of attraction among them.


There are basic conventions and skills that are used to solve chemical problems and communicate about chemical phenomena.






Unit 1 Essential Knowledge
Click on the photo to check out Unit One Essential Knowledge (College Board 2013).
Unit 1 Learning Objectives
Click on the photo to check out Unit One Learning Objectives (College Board 2013).
Unit 1 Vocabulary
Click on the photo to check out Unit One Vocabulary.

AP Chemistry Unit 1 Summary of Activities


1.  The Quest for Clean Drinking Water article, film clip and Compass chart (View/Engage)

2. AP Chemistry Guided Inquiry Experiment: Inquiry Lab 1: Solution Concentration and Light Transmission (Explore/Explain/Speak)

3. Solution Chemistry POGIL and Lecture (Explain/Speak)

4. Significant figures and scientific exponents review and ppt. (Explain/Speak)

5.Chromotography takehome lab (Explain/Explain)

7. The Case of the Drowned Businessman: Analysis of Phosphate in Water (Inquiry LAB) (Explore/Explore)

8. Drowned Businessman Lab Report Summative Assessment (Evaluate/Deliver)

Unit 1 Description
Unit 1: Case of the Drowned Businessman
This is the first unit in my AP class.  My goals are to review and check concepts that students should have learned; to guage their chemistry lab skills and scientific competence; to introduce spectrophotometry; and to teach the importance of understanding, recording, and reporting scientific data.  Specifically, we will look at units, scientific notation, significant digits, and error analysis.  
The first class period is designed to get students thinking about the constituents of a solution; how we measure concentration; and how this information is reported. One way to do this is to briefly investigate and discuss the concerns that have been reported about medicines and other drugs in our water systems.  We use the Compass model to study the impact of this phenomena on human systems.  Another approach is a quick demonstration using indicators to show that clear liquids may contain very different substances and then discuss how those substances could be measured and identified.  
After the introduction, the unit follows three main parts.  The first part of the unit is the first inquiry lab from the AP Chemistry manual to introduce the students to photospectroscopy; to preassess laboratory skills; and to learn about measurement and error.
The second part of the unit is a more flipped approach with some use of pogil and youtube videos. Clas time is used to practice concepts and work with students on measurement, error analysis and other scientific skills. The chromatography lab is done as a take home activity to give them a quick overview of chromatography without spending too much time on it.  
The final activity is the Drowned Businessman Lab from Peter Jeschofnig of Colorado Mountain College.  Students use reagents and a standard phosphate solution to develop a plan to test four water samples in order to determine the possible drowning site of a local businessman.  Students get very little direction but should not have too much trouble developing a plan after completing the first AP Chemistry lab which uses similar procedures and tools.  The focus of the lab and the unit are on taking careful measurements, reducing error, recording data, and reporting data.  The students formal lab report will be the summative assessment for this unit.

VESTED View (5-E Engage):

Students watch a short video from University of Michigan about how medicine gets into our water through our urine and feces and other sources. As they watch the video students will be asked to listen and record  how medicines get into our water, how they may be harmful to our environment, and how chemists test to measure thier concentration.  


Another way to start this unit would be to start with three colorless solutions and add an indicator.  Students would be asked to describe what they think is happening and how a chemist might test to find out. We also ask them to try and guess how we could find out how much of something is dissolved in a solvent.

5-E Engage (Vested Explain/Speak)

Students will read an article and describe its implications for nature (resources), economy, society, and personal well-being using the Compass Education tools. One approach to establishing relavance is to read the Chem Matters article "The Quest for a Clean Drink" Article and study guide below.  Also, are links to articles about medicines in our water supply.

Above is an example of the analysis of the article about medicine in water using the Compass Education model.  Students work in groups of three to four to complete the Compass Chart.  Each group is assigned the role of a group in the community and then are asked to complete the chart from the perspective of the group that they represent.  Groups might include families, farmers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, government, water treatment manicipalities.  Students are allowed to speak their native language as they prepare their charts, but each group must report out in English and every member of the group must speak.

5-E Explore (Vested Explain) 

(pre-assessment-formative assessment)

Lab 1 AP Chemistry College Board Lab

Students complete lab 1 from the College Board AP Chemistry Manual. The focus is on taking careful measurements, correctly recording observations (sig.fig.), making graphs, and error analysis.  This lab will be assessed and a grade will be placed in the grade book.  This grade will be replaced with the grade on the summative assessment lab which is somewhat similar in nature.

Sample Student Introduction AP Lab 1


According to Investigation 1 page 17, a spectrophotometer works by shining a beam of light into a solution containing the sample, and detecting how much of it comes out of the other side of the solution. Therefore, if it is working properly, a spectrophotometer would show higher percentage transmittance if there's less substances dissolved in liquid and lower percentage transmittance if there's more substances dissolved in liquid. This can be supported by the theory called Beer's Law; the mathematical relationship between solute concentration and light absorbance is described in Beer’s Law, which basically states that there is a linear relationship between the absorbance and the concentration of a sample.

            To test whether this theory works or not, the experiment was conducted with the purpose to graph the linear relationship between transmittance and the molarity of the stock solution and to use the graph to determine the concentration of blue dye in the sports drink.

5-E Explain (Vested Speak/Transform)

After completing lab 1 from the AP manual, students hone their skills through a number of targeted activities.  I also provide some lecture and guided practice.  Students know that they must learn these skills in order to complete the final assessment which is a guided inquiry lab and lab report. Activities in ths part of the unit include POGIL activities on solution chemistry (homework and in class), Chromotography takehome lab from Chembear, and lecture and practice with significant figures, scientific notation, and experimental error. Some of the materials are linked at the right.

5-E Elaborate and Evaluate

(Vested Extend and Deliver)


Students will complete the guided inquiry lab The Case of the Drowned Businessman: Analysis of Phosphate in Water from Peter Jeschofnig at Colorado Mountain College.  The students' lab report is the summative assessment for this unit.  The content focus of the unit is on scientific observarions, measurement, recording data, significant figures, scientific notation, error analysis, and scientific writing.

Drowned Man Close Test button above takes you to a Close test version of the introduction of the Case of the Drowned Businessman.  This activity is a support piece for EAL students.

Description and Flow of Unit Activities

Examples and Samples of Unit Activities

Please take some time to share your comments on the unit above. Send your comments and questions through the message box below.  Your feedback is appreciated.

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