Analyzing difficulties with mole-concept tasks by using familiar analog tasks



This study was conducted to determine which skills and concepts students have that are prerequisites for solving moles problems through the use of analog tasks. Two analogous tests with four forms of each were prepared that corresponded to a conventional moles test. The analogs used were oranges and granules of sugar. Slight variations between test items on various forms permitted comparisons that would indicate specific conceptual and mathematical difficulties that students might have in solving moles problems. Different forms of the two tests were randomly assigned to 332 high school chemistry students of five teachers in four schools in central Indiana. Comparisons of total test score, subtest scores, and the number of students answering an item correctly using appropriate t-test and chi square tests resulted in the following conclusions: (1) the size of the object makes no difference in the problem difficulty; (2) students understand the concepts of mass, volume, and particles equally well; (3) problems requiring two steps are harder than those requiring one step; (4) problems involving scientific notation are more difficult than those that do not; (5) problems involving the multiplication concept are easier than those involving the division concept; (6) problems involving the collective word “bag” are easier to solve than those using the word “billion”; (7) the use of the word “a(n)” makes the problem more difficult than using the number “1”.