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Balancing Chemical Equations: Protect Molecules with Bubble Wrap...

Updated: Apr 17

Over the years, I have tried different strategies to help students balance chemical equations. I've found a number of students want to put numbers inside molecules when balancing. Here is a strategy I've found effective in stopping students making new and exotic chemical species!

Break 'em up and Bubble Wrap

I'll use the formation of magnesium oxide as an example.

Step One: Write out the symbol equation...

Step Two: The symbols for the atoms of each chemical are written out underneath - the breaking up part

Step Three: 'Bubble Wrap' (circle) the atoms to show they belong to each specific atom/molecule. This 'protects' the atom/molecule so that it can't be changed.

Step Four: Add bubbles where there are not enough atoms on that side of the equation - keep going until there are the same number of atoms before and after the reaction arrow.