Ever watched a teenager play a new digital game? They don’t read any of the rules first before playing. They’d rather just explore and figure it out for themselves. If they lose a life in the game, they happily use the experience to quickly inform and adjust their next attempt to succeed. They quickly figure out intricate rules and patterns in games through exploration and iteration without prompting or frustration.
In many chemistry classrooms, learning electron configuration involves many rules and a complex pattern for fill order. Students are given the rules: Aufbau Principle, Hund’s Rule, and the Pauli Exclusion Principle. Students are given the pattern for electron fill order to memorize or given the Diagonal Rule (aka Madelung’s Rule) to help them.
Isn’t there another way for chemistry students to learn the patterns in electron configuration? The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) include patterns as one of its Crosscutting Concepts, and we know young people regularly look for patterns in games. Our resource of the month is a lesson plan that allows students to use the Atoms game in Collisions® to explore electron configuration. Through the game students will uncover the electron fill order pattern while discovering the concepts covered by Hund’s Rule as well as the Aufbau and Pauli Exclusion Principles. The lesson plan includes two student worksheets to guide their play/exploration/learning and a student assessment to determine individual mastery of the concepts.