INTRODUCTION to teaching yourself basic chemistry

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What is chemistry? The above animation tends to illustrate the populist view, but such a view of fizzing, pretty colours and flashes and bangs is frankly, only a small part of the subject we call chemistry - but, initially in the classroom, it is good fun and a good practical introduction! Unfortunately for many pupils/students its their only view of chemistry and if it doesn't live up to this 'view', it must be boring! BUT its rather a lot more things and relevant and interesting knowledge if you take the trouble to look!

 e.g. How to transform one substance into another e.g. an acid + alkali (reactants) ==> salt + water (products). The practical techniques to carry out reactions and isolate the desired product - this involves apparatus design, separation and purification techniques. A fundament description of what a substance is, its structure and properties at the atomic/molecular level and developing theoretical models to explain and predict the properties of substances. How to investigate materials in terms of e.g. their constituent atoms and arrangement - molecular structure. Chemical analysis e.g. how to determine the % purity of a compound, the % constituents of a mixture. The development of innovative compounds e.g. 'smart' plastics, effective drugs, safe medicines. Environment chemistry - what are the chemical reactions that give rise to pollutants? What chemical changes occur to cause environmental harm? The list of present and future applications of chemistry has no limit, and environmental, health and ethical issues are becoming more and more discussed in the public domain - and rightly so.

220+ examples of the uses of elements, compounds & mixtures are briefly described


Ten points to bear in mind while following my scheme!

How to teach yourself chemistry? hmm!!!

  1. A 'good' friend suggested I put together a scheme that taught chemistry from its basics by using various sections of my site. The scheme is suitable for students/adults preferably aged at least 14 and I'm not trying to pretend its suitable from the first year of secondary/high school.

  2. To devise a self-study course in chemistry, with built in self-assessment, is a daunting task, and, even without starting from scratch (couldn't bear that!), most of my notes have been written on the basis of the 'users' i.e. science-chemistry students, knowing some chemistry, and, studying on a chemistry science course with structured guidelines from teachers and lecturers.

  3. However, that does not mean (I hope?), that I've taken things for granted in the way I've presented my notes and the scheme of 'lesson plans', but students on a science-chemistry are automatically given directions as to what they are to study!

  4. Therefore they can use this website as an extra textbook and look up information on, and test themselves on, subject matter dictated by the teacher-lecturer delivering a particular science course, so, I've done by best to select web pages, or even just sections of a webpage, and put them 'together' in what I think is a suitable order to study them.

  5. I do not have time to give detailed replies to questions, but general queries and comments about this scheme, the revision webpages and quizzes are most welcome, whether the comments be positive (proton!), neutral (neutron!) or negative (electron!).

  6. Clicking on any link will open a study notes page or a quiz in a new window, so this page is automatically retained on screen to hopefully return to and progress further! You may be required to study the whole or part of the web page linked to.

  7. I've put in place the first few sections and will continue to add to the scheme over the coming months. As well as providing links to study notes pages, wherever possible I've put links to quizzes that will self-test the self-study student.

  8. I have not described any practical experiments you can do in the home, though I may add some later? This is a 'bookish' website and since experiments are not part of the scheme at the moment, I have adopted a more academic approach from the start.

  9. In the early years at secondary schools pupils might well do some experiments e.g. with acids, alkalis and indicators, salt preparations, methods of separating mixtures etc. before many important and fundamental concepts are considered, BUT I will introduce such ideas earlier but trying to ensure that required underlying knowledge is dealt with first.

  10. The following icons-buttons are used to indicate the contents of a webpage link.

    • Link to chemistry revision-study notes.

    • Multiple choice quiz

      • refers to a KS4 Science GCSE/IGCSE chemistry foundation lower level tier quiz (easier!)

      • and indicates a higher tier or harder quiz!

    • indicates an exercise in which you have to type in a short answer - usually 1-2 words or a number or chemical symbol.

    • indicates a word-fill worksheet. You can do online by choosing the word from a drop-down menu OR you can printout, do, and return to input the answers from the drop-down menu. In some cases I might have put a copy of the exercise with the answers included.

    • KS3 Chemistry Quiz indicates a /matching pair exercise i.e. match the left hand word/statement with a right-hand word/statement from a drop-down menu.


(the start of) THE SCHEME!

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My initial version lays out a series of 'lessons' which I will regularly revise to make more coherent and by all means email me with suggestions for improvements. There is no set time for each lesson, that's up to you, and the quizzes and tests will give you some self-indication as to how you are getting on! They may or may not improve your confidence! In the multiple choice quizzes PLEASE read any feedback - part of the learning process AND if you think there is any sort of 'error' or poor design in a question PLEASE email me BUT quote the test AND the Q database reference number in square brackets [xxx].


Lesson 1. Some fundament basic ideas, concepts and definitions

model of a molecule

  • Important definitions in Chemistry, Elements, Compounds & Mixture

    • Section 1.1 of the above page introduces important words-definitions such as ...

    • 1.1a atom and element (i) only

    • 1.1b molecules and simple diagrams

    • 1.1c element and symbols (i) only

    • 1.1d chemical bond

    • 1.1e compounds, formula and molecule

    • 1.1f more on formula and molecule

    • 1.1g mixtures

    • 1.1h pure substance

    • 1.1i impure material or substance

    • 1.1j purification procedures - just the idea - details of methods in a later lesson 5.

    • Do not worry about detailed atomic structure, the periodic table, types of chemical bonding and other advanced ideas mentioned and links to notes on them etc. just stick to the basic ideas of what the above words and phrases mean. The other material on the page is all needed later, but not now!

  • Self-assessment Quizzes


Lesson 2. The physical states of matter - gas, liquid and solid

  • The physical 'States of Matter' - gases, liquids and solids - structure and properties

    • This page introduces a general physical descriptions of substances in the simplest physical (non-chemical) classification level i.e. gas liquid or solid. BUT, it also introduces 'particle models' in which a small circle represents an atom or a molecule.

    • Forces between particles are mentioned and some ideas will seem more abstract than others - but think about it ...

      • a gas spreads everywhere in a given space, so there can't be much attraction between the molecules/particles,

      • something must hold liquid molecules together (they are actually weak electrical forces of attraction called intermolecular forces), but not strong enough to create a rigid solid structure,

      • and, these forces must be stronger in a solid.

    • Section 1. introduces 'particle models' and is abstract in a way because you are talking about particles you can't see as individually, just the 'bulk' material. However, scientists use these 'particle models' to help explain the physical properties of a gas, liquid or a solid.

    • Section 1a. Particle model of a gas

    • Section 1b. Particle model of a liquid

    • Section 1c. Particle model of a solid

    • Section 2. on state changes is not so easy to understand at the particle level but at least make sure you know what the terms freezing, boiling etc. mean in terms of the physical change of state of a substance.

    • Section 2a. Evaporation and boiling explained

    • Section 2b. Condensation - gas to liquid state change.

    • Section 2c. Distillation - a particular separation of a mixture application of 2a. Described on a separate page (see Lesson ?)

    • Section 2d. Melting - solid to liquid

    • Section 2e. Freezing - liquid to solid state change

    • Section 2f. Heating and cooling curves (this is a more difficult section to appreciate and can be left out).

    • Section 2g. Sublimation - solid to gas state change

    • Section 3., like section 2. is applying the particle model to try to understand other phenomena.

    • Section 3a. A solid dissolving in the liquid.

    • Section 3b. Miscible liquids - they fully mix together at the individual particle level.

    • Section 3c. Immiscible liquids - do not mix together.

    • Section 3d. Use of a separating funnel - a means of separating liquids that do not mix.

  • Self-assessment quizzes

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Lesson 3. Particle pictures in a wider context


Lesson 4. Physical and Chemical Changes - differences

extra advanced notes on gas laws, ideal and non-ideal gases OR ?

  • Physical & Chemical Changes

    • Section 1.3 describes what we mean by a 'physical change' as opposed to a 'chemical change'.

    • Section 1.4 of the above page describes what we mean by a 'chemical change' - what are the 'symptoms'.

  • Quiz links to add


Lesson 5. Separation of Mixtures

  • Separation of Mixtures

  • How to separate and purify mixtures is important in all chemistry where compounds are being prepared.

  • The basic techniques are evaporation, filtration, distillation, crystallisation and other techniques are mentioned in the miscellaneous section.

  • BUT there is more to separation to this, many important forms of chemical analysis depend on separating components in a mixture e.g. the different types of chromatography.

  • Other methods mentioned in section 2.6 on instrument analysis won't be understood at the moment.

  • Quiz links to add


Lesson 6. Introducing Acids, Alkalis, pH Scale and Neutralisation


Lesson 7.


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Year 13 A2 Advanced Level Salters Chemistry Students at Whitby Community College Year 13 January 2002

An excellent year of keen 6th form chemistry students!

Year 12 AS Advanced Level Salters Chemistry Students at Whitby Community College Year 12 January 2002

Now then, who is doing the posing here!

Having been retired from classroom teaching since 2003 I have done home tuition in the North Yorkshire, Teesside and Cleveland areas in the North-East of England e.g. students from Whitby, Goathland, Scarborough, Pickering, Redcar, Middlesbrough, Saltburn, Guisborough etc. but now, I just work from home with a view to a second retirement soon to concentrate on the website! So, I'm hoping, as an experienced teacher (and student!), for nearly fifty years!, to put my experience fully into the website and via this page to produce a home based self-tuition system in chemistry from UK KS3 science-chemistry level, through GCSE/IGCSE/O level chemistry to advanced level chemistry (A/AS/A2 chemistry). However, with trying to develop other aspects of the site, progress on this page is slow, BUT, the work methodically continues as I plod on, and I may continue to do private tuition!

Year 12 AS Advanced Level Salters Chemistry Students at Whitby Community College Year 12 January 2002

The distant digital memory of 'my' busy, but, untidy chemistry laboratory!

GCSE grade 9-1 & IGCSE CHEMISTRY Doc Brown's Travel Pictures & Notes
All website content Dr Phil Brown 2000 onwards. All copyrights reserved on revision notes, images, quizzes, worksheets etc. Copying of website material is NOT permitted. Exam revision summaries and references to science course specifications are unofficial. Email doc b:

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