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Chemical Education Today


Mole City: A Stoichiometric Analogy

by Addison Ault

Reading the recent paper by Cook and Cook (1), I found

myself in complete agreement with their goals, which include
getting students to first understand the problem they are
trying to solve and getting them to draw a mental map
with clear directions toward a solution.
As I pondered these things I slipped into a reverie in
which I had a vision of a city. Allow me to describe my vision
of what I shall call Mole City.
Mole City
The main street of Mole City, call it Mole Street, runs
east and west. It is cut by the river, which runs north and
south. To the left of the river live the Starting Materials; to
the right of the river live the Products.
The houses of the Starting Materials lie on eastwest
streets parallel to Mole Streetstreets named Gram Street,
Volume of a Pure Solid Street, Volume of a Pure Liquid Street,
and Volume of a Pure Gas at STP Street. Farther out can be
found Volume of a Gas at T and P Street, and Volume of a
Solution Street. It is, however, only Mole Street that has a
bridge, the Mole Street Bridge, that crosses the river. All the
other streets are cut by the river.
The houses of the Products also lie on these eastwest
streets, parallel to Mole Street. In contrast to the houses of
the Starting Materials, however, the houses of the Products
are on those parts of these streets that are to the right of the
river. Again, the streets are Gram Street, Volume of a Pure
Solid Street, Volume of a Pure Liquid Street, Volume of a Pure
Gas at STP Street, Volume of a Pure Gas at T and P Street,
and Volume of a Solution Street. On this right side of the
river there is also Percent Yield Street.
When Starting Materials are looking for action they move
from their homes to Mole Street. To do this they travel on
the avenues, which run from north to south. Each north
south avenue has a sign that indicates the Conversion Factor
that is required for passage toward or away from Mole Street.
For the streets whose names are mentioned above, these Conversion Factors are Molar Mass Avenue, Density of a Pure Liquid Avenue, Density of a Pure Solid Avenue, Molar Volume
of a Pure Gas at STP Avenue, N PV/RT Avenue, and Moles
per Liter of Solution Avenue.
Once on Mole Street and properly quantified by Mole
Number the Starting Materials head to the right, toward the
river. Starting Materials that live on Mole Street, can, of course,
move directly toward the river.

It is in the reactors that line the Mole Street Bridge,

which lies across the river, where the action is to be found.
Some reactors, often called bars, feature acid, some base,
some heavy metal, some a solvent such as ethanol (or, more
rarely, water), but each provides a place where old connections can be overcome and new hookups achieved.
The Products thus formed on the bridge eventually leave
and then move further to the right on Mole Street, turning
onto the avenues to reach their desired destinations on Gram
Street, Volume of a Pure Solid Street, Volume of a Pure Liquid Street, Volume of a Pure Gas at STP Street, Volume of a
Gas at T and P Street, or Volume of a Solution Street.
When, occasionally, some Product is lost the final destination will be a house on Percent Yield Street.
There will, of course, be times when the chemistry in
the bar is not right and some Starting Materials will be left
over after the new relationships are established. The leftovers
will then have to go back to the left on Mole Street, to the
shelters on Moles Remaining Street.
I describe the construction and use of such maps in
Part 2 of my recent paper (2).
We all try to teach our students how to think; thats what
teaching is about. I also believe that a student is more likely
to think when the logical steps are clearly laid out, as, for
example, paths on a map.
As teachers it is our duty to show our students how to
travel efficiently over the best paths. And these may not be
the paths we learned to travel when we were students. The
creativity of teaching is in the discovery of better paths.
Literature Cited
1. Cook, E.; Cook, R. L. Cross-Proportions: A Conceptual
Method for Developing Quantitative Problem-Solving Skills.
J. Chem. Educ. 2005, 82, 11871189.
2. Ault, A. How To Say How Much: Amounts and Stoichiometry. J. Chem. Educ. 2001, 78, 13471349.

Addison Ault is a member of the Department of Chemistry,

Cornell College, Mount Vernon, IA 52314; aault@cornell

Vol. 83 No. 11 November 2006

Journal of Chemical Education