Problem-solving skills of high school chemistry students



What strategies do high school students use when solving chemistry problems? The purpose for conducting this study was to determine the general problem-solving skills that students use in solving problems involving moles, stoichiometry, the gas laws, and molarity. The strategies were examined for success in problem solving for 266 students of varying proportional reasoning ability, using interviews incorporating the think-aloud technique. Data were coded using a scheme based on Polya's heuristics. Results indicated that successful students and those with high proportional reasoning ability tended to use algorithmic reasoning strategies more frequently than nonsuccessful and low proportional reasoning students. However, the majority of all students solved the chemistry problems using only algorithmic methods, and did not understand the chemical concepts on which the problems were based.