Facilitating problem solving in high school chemistry



The major purpose for conducting this study was to determine whether certain instructional strategies were superior to others in teaching high school chemistry students problem solving. The effectiveness of four instructional strategies for teaching problem solving to students of various proportional reasoning ability, verbal and visual preference, and mathematics anxiety were compared in this aptitude by treatment interaction study. The strategies used were the factor-label method, analogies, diagrams, and proportionality. Six hundred and nine high school students in eight schools were randomly assigned to one of four teaching strategies within each classroom. Students used programmed booklets to study the mole concept, the gas laws, stoichiometry, and molarity. Problem-solving ability was measured by a series of immediate posttests, delayed posttests and the ACS-NSTA Examination in High School Chemistry. Results showed that mathematics anxiety is negatively correlated with science achievement and that problem solving is dependent on students' proportional reasoning ability. The factor-label method was found to be the most desirable method and proportionality the least desirable method for teaching the mole concept. However, the proportionality method was best for teaching the gas laws. Several second-order interactions were found to be significant when mathematics anxiety was one of the aptitudes involved.