Saturday, August 24, 2019

AP Chemistry Escape Room

Can YOU Escape Without a Calculator?!

There is nothing like the stunned silence on the first day of AP Chemistry after I announce: "There are no calculators allowed on the multiple choice of the AP exam.  Therefore, I will not allow calculators on the multiple choice portions of our tests this year."
The gasps!  The shock!  The PANIC!  

My first unit is Stoichiometry and Solutions, and it is basically the same concepts they learned last year, but applying them to AP-type scenarios.  It is a huge leap for them to go from doing each problem the same way as the last, as they did in 10th grade chemistry, to being able to read a new scenario and decide how to go about answering it.  None of the calculations we do in this unit are new to them, but the process and problem solving skills are new.  We spend the first few weeks in the lab and working problems.

With their first unit test approaching, we have been working hard on problem solving skills, stoichiometry, and particle diagrams.  But we had not yet addressed the elephant in the room.  No calculator?  On math problems?  

I wanted their first introduction to this calculator-free multiple choice to be less stressful than a test situation.  A friend of mine gave me the idea to turn it into an Escape Room, and although the final product was quite different than my original vision, I thought it was a huge success in my classroom and wanted to share it.

My students have 1:1 computers, so I decided to do a digital escape room (with a few non-digital components).  I described my vision to technology integration specialist and asked if there was any way to do it.  She suggested I use Google Forms and she set up the template that I then adapted and turned into my escape room.  

How It Works

Students are paired in groups of 3-4.  As this is their first introduction to Chemistry Without Calculators, I wanted them in groups that would allow collaboration.  I let them choose their own groups, but you could assign them if needed.  Each group needs one computer.

I went over the directions with the class (see the instructions that follow) to make sure they understood each step.  I reminded them that without calculators, many of the numbers in the AP exam will be mental math friendly, and to change decimals to fractions to make the math a little simpler.

I sent them the link to the Escape Room.  The first page asks them to type in their name.  I had them list all their names.  (When each group had entered that and was ready, I told them to begin.)

The first screen asks a question.  They must solve it and enter the correct answer.  If the answer is wrong, it tells them to try again.

(I have set up the Google form to accept the answer without units, and if significant figures are important in a particular question, it tells them how to round their answer.)

Students must keep trying until they get the correct answer, at which point the second question appears.

Students continue until they have correctly answered 4 questions.  At this point, the Google Form gives them a clue about an element.
In the back of the classroom are envelopes labeled with element symbols: 

The students choose the correct folder, based on the clue they are given, and pull out a puzzle piece:

They go back to their seat with the puzzle piece and continue answering questions.  After another 4 questions, they get another clue, and go back to find another puzzle piece.  

There are 16 total questions, for a total of 4 puzzle pieces:

Once they have collected all the puzzle pieces, they put them together to see the final question:

Then, they answer the question, type their answer in the Google Form, and they have ESCAPED!!!

The Details

This particular version took us two 45 minute class periods - this takes a bit of time for them to wrestle with, especially if this is their first time wrestling with how to solve these types of problems.  

I am sharing the files and would love for other teachers to give it a try.   (These questions are not original --  I have taken them from various practice problems I have found to help my students prepare.)

Advance Preparation

Everything you need is in this file:  AP Chemistry Escape Room

Print out the puzzles -- 1 per group.  Cut them out and put all of the same pieces in the same envelope.  I laminated them so that they would last longer.  I put one set of pieces in the "H," one in the "C," one in the "Zn," and one in the "F."  If you wanted to change the envelopes, you could just change the clues within the Google Form.

I had a bunch of "dummy envelopes" so they had to decide which envelope to draw from.  At first those were empty, but then I felt students would just shake them to figure out which envelopes had something in them, so I put scrap pieces of paper in all the dummy envelopes. 😆

If you don't have computers for the students to use, you could easily adapt this:
Just print out the questions and put them in numbered envelopes.  Give each group an envelope with #1.  Have them check answers with you and when they get #1 correct, give them #2.  This is a little more work for you during the class, but it would be one way to adapt it.

The Take-Away

This was really fun for my students, and it was a great way to throw them in the deep end with non-calculator questions.  😉

Creating the template and figuring out how I wanted this to work was fairly time consuming, but now that the template is done it would be quite easy to use this for other units and/or classes.  My students really enjoyed it and after a few questions they started getting the hang of how to handle questions WITHOUT a calculator!

Happy Chemistry students
who have just "Escaped"!

I let my students choose their own groups, and I ended up with several groups of mixed abililty, several groups with three high achievers, and several groups with three students who struggle a little more.  I was very surprised that all groups seemed to perform similarly.  Learning this skill was difficult for all of them, and some of the students who struggled seemed to get more confident when they saw that they got a puzzle piece before a group of "high achievers".

Now that I have the template, I can see doing this more often for this class and for others. If you give it a try, please share your experiences!

Happy gaming!