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Lesson Plans
From Molecules to Mole Day Do's
Mole Day Activities for Teachers to do with Families
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Prep for Teachers

Prior to the activity, bookmark each of the Web sites used in the lesson. Load the Shockwave plug-in onto all computers in your classroom. CUE the videotapes to their appropriate starting points. Prepare copies of the handouts.
Print out World of Chemistry Chemical Composition Flash Cards. Make sufficient copies for the class, with one set of cards per seven participants. If desired, mount the cards onto index cards using glue or tape.

When using media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing video segments and Web sites.

Introductory Activities: Setting the Stage

Step 1:

In this first activity, you will establish a context for understanding standards in measurement. Break the class into groups with three or four members, and give each group of learners a “Sci Island” activity sheet. This activity sheet will allow participants to compare measurements made using two different systems of measurement – the English system, represented by the map of the United States, and the SI system, represented by the tilted flask. It will also allow them to better understand the benefits of a system that uses fewer base units over a system that uses many units to measure the same quantity. Give each group about 3 minutes to complete this activity. Initiate discussion concerning inherent problems of measurement resulting from differences in units.

Initiate discussion by asking participants how many different units they brainstormed to measure amount of matter in the United States. (Answers should represent at least three of the following units: pounds, ounces, cups, teaspoons, tablespoons, tons.) Continue by asking them how many different units they brainstormed to measure distance. (Possible answers may include mile, nautical mile, inch, foot, yard, and league.) Ask participants to consider the same questions on Sci Island. Immediately they may identify fewer options and most of the responses will have a common base unit. (Gram, kilogram, milligram, meter, kilometer, centimeter.)

Introduce the term base 10 to participants as part of the discussion. The base 10 system used by the International System (SI) connects base units like the gram or the meter by a factor of 10 to the other units discussed. Inherent problems to the English system of measurement include the inconsistencies in units. For example, 12 inches equals 1 foot, 3 feet equals 1 yard, and 1 mile equals 1760 yards: none of the numbers are related.

Ask students to discuss possible problems scientists encounter when trying to standardize international units of measurement when compared to those used in the United States. Explore with students the historical evolution of the foot as a unit. If the "king's foot" was the standard, then as one king died and was replaced, the unit also changed.

Invite several students to walk the same distance in the room and count the number of "feet" or steps required to go the same distance. Participants will begin to discern issues of the standard as well as the ways in which measurements are made: one person's step is another person's stride. Explain to learners that the mole is a unit developed in the 1700s to address unit inconsistencies surrounding matter. Therefore standards are quantities used to compare unknown values with known values.

Step 2:

Next, students will begin to appreciate the utility of scientific notation. Ask learners to mentally calculate the following progression of numbers.

A. 2 x 4

B. 2.5 x 42

C. .25 x 42

D. .0025 x .042

E. 250 x 42

F. 2500 x 4200

G. 2500000000 x 4200000








It is clear to see how quickly the calculations become unwieldy. List the answers on the board. It is also clear to see that each of the resulting numbers from B through G has the same basic structure. The second calculation is best performed using the distributive property – 42(2 + 0.5) – by multiplying 42 by 2 (84) then adding the product 42 x 0.5(21) ==> 84 + 21 = 105. Calculations that precede B are based on its result; multiplying (or dividing) by a factor of ten will result in the movement of the decimal point to the right or the left respectively.

Distribute the “Scientific Notation” worksheet to each group. Explain to learners that scientific notation is a base 10 system that allows for facile calculations of very large numbers. Remind participants that the base 10 system was discussed earlier and is used to connect units in the International System (SI) of measurement. Instruct participants to go to the Discovery School Webmath site at Ask students to identify clues that demonstrate that scientific notation is a base 10 system from the yellow box on the Web page. (Participants will notice that for the interactive component "Convert numbers to scientific notation," a space is provided for input followed by a non-interactive "x 10" followed by another data field. Because all input will have to be multiplied by 10, all results are based on or are changed by a factor of 10.)

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking participants to review the Discovery School Webmath site and identify the mass of Earth in kilograms. Ask students to indicate when they have found the answer by raising their hands. While students are searching, write the following "astronomical" measurements on the board: the mass of the Earth (59800000000000000000000 kg); the orbit distance of Earth to the sun (149,600,000 km); diameter of Earth (12756.3 km). Instruct groups to use the Discovery School Site to convert Earth's orbit and diameter to scientific notation. Record responses on the “Scientific Notation” worksheet under real life context.

Instruct groups to complete the Scientific notation worksheet using the previously bookmarked NYU site

Learning Activities

Step 1:

FAST FORWARD Mole Concept #4 to the point at which "AVOGADRO'S HYPOTHESIS" appears on a black screen and you hear music. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to identify and record Avogadro's Hypothesis. PLAY tape. PAUSE tape when narrator states, "Each volume contains at least two atoms called molecules."

CHECK for understanding by asking students what Avogadro's Hypothesis is. (Avogadro's Hypothesis states that equal volumes of gas at the same temperature and pressure contain equal numbers of particles.) CHECK for further understanding by asking students to state the differences between atoms, ions, and molecules. (Atoms are small particles of matter. Ions are charged particles/atoms that gain their charge because of the loss or gain of electrons. Molecules are "systems" of atoms that are bonded together to form a unit of matter.)

Step 2:

Insert Mole Concept #6 into your VCR. FAST FORWARD to the point at which you see the image of a scale. The narrator states, "Ideally, we'd like to use a balanced scale to compare masses. Provide learners with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking students to watch for changes in numerical values associated with nitrogen and oxygen from 28 and 32 to 14 and 16, respectively. Ask students to speculate why there was a change and what these numbers represent when compared to a periodic table. PLAY the tape. PAUSE the tape when the narrator states, "We have a practical tool for comparing atoms," and you see a close-up of a red sphere representing oxygen changing to a red cube on the screen. CHECK for student understanding by asking students why the change occurred. (Both nitrogen and oxygen are naturally diatomic. The mass of each atom is indicated by the second set of numbers whereas the first values indicate the masses of the diatomic molecules.)

Lead a discussion about the nature of gases when compared to solids and liquids. The three most common states of matter are solids, liquids, and gases. Each may be defined by the distance between particles and the energy associated with the particles. The particles of a solid are relatively close to each other and moving very slowly, whereas those of a gas are very far apart and moving rather quickly; the particles of a liquid are intermediate between the latter and the former. Ask students if they think gases like nitrogen and oxygen can be measured like solids or liquids. Engage discussion in challenges to their comparison. (Possible challenges include the ability to contain substances that were so different. Gases by definition have no definite shape so the ability to measure gases is reduced when compared to solids and liquids.) Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking students to speculate how small or large a number would be required to standardize all of the different types of matter. PLAY tape. PAUSE tape when image of an the words "PICK A NUMBER" appear on the screen in small caps, and the narrator states, "If we always pick the same number of atoms, we always have the same number of atoms." CHECK for comprehension.

(Discussion should suggest that the standard that allows for comparison of gases is probably very large. Introduce the notion that a mole is much like a dozen and has a specific number associated with it. While a dozen eggs represent 12 eggs and a dozen chickens represent 12 chickens, the mass of 12 eggs is significantly less than that of 12 chickens.)

FAST FORWARD tape to the image of a black "lump" on a scale. The narrator states, "What we need is a more useful number." Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to determine the name of the special number scientists use to compare atoms and which element this number is based on. Additionally, ask them to raise their hand when they can identify the meaning of relative atomic mass. PLAY tape. STOP when you see students raise their hands. CHECK for student understanding. Ask students what that special number is. (The name of the number is Avogadro's Number and it was determined based on work done with Carbon-12.) Ask students what relative atomic mass is. (The relative atomic mass allows for the comparison of different atoms in the form of ratios based on data presented in the periodic table.) Observe that hydrogen has a relative mass of 1g, sodium has a relative mass of 23g, calcium has a mass of 40g, and sulfur has a mass of 32g.

CUE tape to where you see a horizontal display for hydrogen, carbon, sodium, sulfur, and calcium. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to calculate the relative atomic mass (molecular mass) of iron II sulfide (1 atom of iron + 1 atom of sulfur) and explain the statement "the mole is the universal standard container." PLAY tape. PAUSE tape once the molecular mass of iron II sulfide is determined on screen. (Iron II sulfide has a molecular mass of 87.9g. The mole allows one to measure in grams an amount of a substance based on the relative atomic mass displayed on the periodic table.)

FAST FORWARD tape to a yellow screen with the words "AVOGADRO'S NUMBER" in small caps. The narrator asks, "Are you curious about Avogadro's number?" MUTE volume. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking students to write Avogadro's Number in scientific notation. PAUSE tape when three columns of numbers appear on the screen. Allow students time to write Avogadro's Number in scientific notation. (6.02 x 1023) Resume normal volume. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to identify three ways a mole is calculated. PLAY remainder of episode. (The mole is defined using the atomic/molecular mass, 22.4 L of gas at standard temperature and pressure or as 6.02 x 1023 particles.)

Step 3:

CHECK for understanding using concept mapping. Distribute newsprint to each group. Instruct each group to write the word MOLE in capital letters in the center of a piece of newsprint. Instruct groups to treat the term MOLE as a tree and develop branches of related ideas germane to the activities presented in the lesson and/or list applications of the MOLE to other ideas. Create a concept map of ideas around the mole on newsprint. A sample concept map is provided at the end of the lesson. Display the work of each group around the room, exhibit style. Allow groups to promenade around the room to make sure each group has understands key concepts.

Cross-Curricilar Extensions

Step 1:

Review vocabulary related to the concept of the mole, and introduce ideas useful to scientists when determining chemical properties of substances. Break the class into working groups of 7-member teams. Distribute the Houghton Mifflin Flash Cards to each group. These flash cards are available online at /index.html. Allow the class 2-3 minutes to study their cards. Allow the group 5-7 minutes to review all of the vocabulary represented on the flash cards. Instruct each student to record vocabulary in their own notebook.

Step 2:

As a fun evaluation, engage the teams in friendly competition. There are three major ideas presented in this lesson:
  • The mole as a standard unit of measurement
  • The utility of scientific notation when working with numbers in science
  • Conversion of measurements related to the mole, atomic mass, and physical mass
These three major ideas are used to form strands of players, sub-teams within a larger team. Each team must designate a leader and strand experts in four categories. The four strand categories are:
  1. Scientific notation
  2. Mass Mole Calculation
  3. Mole-Particle Calculation
  4. Arcade
The strands are designated so that team members can pair up to complete each challenge. This is also a differentiated evaluation. Younger participants, or those who are not agile at complex calculations, can organize and record scores, serve as "calculator" experts, or participate in the arcade-style "Whack-a-Mole" competition. Create review teams by combining at least two groups. Distribute “Round-Robin Rules” sheets. Set a 5-minute time limit to review competition rules. Allow teams to huddle to create strands within each team. Each strand should have 2-3 members.

Create review stations while teams create strands by opening and minimizing the four Web pages used for this activity:

Addison Wesley Scientific Notation quiz

Glencoe online Chapter 11 Mole Science Quiz

Visionlearning Mole Quiz

Whack-a-Mole game

Cover each of the screens with an opaque piece of construction paper taped to the top of the monitor so that the contents of the page are not visible to any of the teams. Once strands are formed, instruct the scientific notation review strand to take their position in front of one of the review stations. Give each team seven minutes to complete as many questions on each of the 3 review sites. Assure teams that they may not be able to complete all of the questions in the allotted time frame. The fourth site is an arcade-style game. Allow three players to earn points by allowing one player at each level of play. In total, the competition will take about thirty minutes.

Cross-Curricilar Extensions

Engage learners in an art contest to create a Mole Day logo. Visit the National Mole Day Foundation, Inc. Web site at to generate discussion and gather ideas.

Mole data also provides important empirical data about the composition of substances. Understanding ways that percentages are used by scientists is a critical skill. Gather samples of household items that list percent data (examples: 50% isopropyl alcohol, 3% hydrogen peroxide, 5% bleach sodium hypochlorite). Assuming the only other major component of the solution is water, calculate how much water is in each solution. The molecular formula allows scientists to calculate how many moles of each atom are in a molecule of a substance. The molecular formulae are, C3H8O, H2O2, and NaOCl respectively for the household items listed above. The subscripts indicate the number of moles of each atom per molecule of the substance. Using the molecular formulae and a periodic table, calculate the molecular mass of each substance by adding individual atomic masses, then calculate the percentage of each atom in each molecule by mass. I like to call this the PMS method for calculating the empirical formula because when based on a 100g sample, the Percent data can be converted to Moles using atomic masses in order to Solve for the formula.


% Water

Molecular Mass

% Composition by Mass
Isopropyl alcohol,
50 60 amu C: 60%
H: 13.3%
O: 26.7%
Hydrogen peroxide,
97 34 amu H: 6%
O: 94%
Sodium hypochlorite (bleach),
95 74.5 amu
Na: 31%
O: 21%
Cl: 48%

Community Connections
  • Mole Day is an opportunity early in the academic year to allow families to learn along with their students about a key concept in the study of chemistry. Visit the FANS Project Web site at to gather ideas about how families can achieve standards in math and science education.

  • Invite a local university student group to perform demonstrations or serve as mentors in career activities
  • The American Chemical Society often has student chapters who enjoy visiting high schools. Visit the society online at student%5Cstudaffs.html.

  • Many colleges now also require community service. As the nation embraces "No Child Left Behind" legislation, the creation of family involvement activities is a great way to build alliances with families, students, teachers, and schools.