Hip hip hooray - it’s Mole Day! Is it a day to celebrate the small furry mammal that digs underground? Or the small dark spots on your skin? Or perhaps a spy who has access to secret intelligence? Of course not, 23 October is a day to celebrate the humble chemistry mole and in particular to commemorate the work of Avogadro. The day is celebrated between 6.02am and 6.02pm on 10/23 (the date written in the American style) which the chemists among you will recognise as Avogadro’s constant.
A mole is an amount of substance which contains 6.02 x 1023 particles. So for example, 12g of carbon is one mole and contains 6.02 x 1023 carbon atoms, or 18g of water is one mole and contains 6.02 x 1023 water molecules. The relative atomic mass or relative molecular mass in grams equals one mole. Using moles in chemical calculations simplifies the calculation. But, if I had a pound for every time a student told me they were most worried about moles questions in GCSE or A level Chemistry, then can you guess how many pounds I’d have? Yes - 6.02 x 1023 pounds. By first demystifying the concept of moles and then with careful scaffolding of calculations, even then most worried students can improve their confidence.
How Amedeo Avogadro, an Italian lawyer at the end of the 18th century, became one of the most significant scientists to date is documented in many interesting articles which can be shared with students, for example, ‘Avogadro’ written by Colin Russell for Chemistry World which is part of the Royal Society of Chemistry. (https://www.chemistryworld.com/features/avogadro/3004497.article)
How are you planning to mark Mole Day with your students? In the run-up to the day, I’m going to issue a ‘Daily Mole’ which will be differentiated mole questions for KS4 and KS5 with the final challenge being that students need to create their own mole question. Completing all of the daily challenges will lead to the award ‘Avogadro’s Apprentice’.
I'll be posting daily challenges for KS4 & KS5 students related to Mole Day in the week leading up to the big day - check them out in the 11-19 Science group here.