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New Initiatives in Chemical Education

An On-Line Symposium, June 3 to July 19, 1996

Paper 2

The Role of Representations in Problem Solving in Chemistry

George M. Bodner and Daniel S. Domin
Department of Chemistry
Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN 47907
gmbodner@vm.cc.purdue.edu

Abstract

For ten years, we have been studying the differences between successful and unsuccessful problem solvers. It doesn't seem to matter whether the study examines students' ability to solve multiple-choice stoichiometry questions during a general chemistry course, the students' ability to solve complex synthesis questions in an advanced-level course on organic synthesis, or any course between these extremes. In each case, students who use symbolic representations are more likely to be successful than those who don't, and students who construct more than one representation during their search for the solution to the problem are more likely to be successful than those who don't.

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