A Sneak Peak into the World of AP Chemistry

by Bruna Araujo and Jocelyn Ponce

A Sneak Peak Into the World of AP Chemistry

We went on a mission to bring to you a sneak peak of AP chemistry. Mr. Hance, an AP chemistry teacher was kind enough to let us in his classroom, which we attended for three days  to give you guys a better insight of what the class is really like.


First Day: Regular Day

This is the first day preview of AP Chemistry, the class starts by working out a problem for bellwork, which involves mathematical formulas, calculators and, of course, the periodic table. The bellwork is known as “Daily Knowledge Checks”, which the students are given a few minutes to complete before turning them into the front.

The teacher lectures along with the powerpoint he shows to his students. They take lots of notes based on the powerpoint, while they learned about the “Phase Change Diagram”. The students learn through note taking and lectures with a couple of videos from their teacher. Each problem they do seems to be answered using formulas and mathematical operations. This class involves plenty of note taking and, unlike other classes, the notebook is the primary source for that.


Second Day: FRQ Day

Today is FRQ day, the students do a quick two minute problem, which is their “Daily Knowledge Checks”. They also turn in their doodle notes, which is unique way to remember what you did in class. Doodle notes are assigned as homework, where students take the notes they did in class and turn them into graphic organizers with colorful illustrations. Followed after is the FRQ. The FRQ is done in groups, and teamwork plays a big role. With fifteen minutes on the clock, each group (4 members in every group) pull together to complete the FRQ. The teacher gives each group a large paper to work out the problem, which is later graded. The teacher makes sure each student does their best and walks around the room monitoring their progress. Later on, on their own time, the students can grade their FRQs with corrections posted by the teacher on Canvas.


Third and Last Day: Stations Lab Day

On Stations Lab Day, the students are able to apply the knowledge they got from the classes into the questions they will be asked on the AP exam. First, they quickly turn in homework that was given in the past week into the front and get started on their “Daily Knowledge Check”, always using their calculators and periodic tables. Next, Mr. Hance divides the class into 5 groups of 4 people each. The classroom is organized into 9 different stations, each having their own Chemistry problem, involving math operations and formulas. Each group receives their own mini periodic table, a reference sheet, that has different formulas and explanations to help solve the problems, and their own calculators. All the students in each group work as a team to get their Stations done as quickly as possible, as they all have only this class period to finish them. Each student gets their own packet with the Stations’ problems, where they record their work and answers to later turn into the front of the class.

On the last day we attended the class, we got to interview Mr. Hance to have a deeper understanding of the class, its basis and requirements:


What is the basis of AP chemistry?

So let’s start with the basis of this class. According to Mr. Hance, Chemistry class is very math heavy and it’s like a second math class. So, you need to know at least basic Algebra well and maybe up until Pre-Calculus. “So, I know it’s a science class, but you need a very strong math background to do well in the class,” explained Mr. Hance, “of course there is some chemical reactions and the energy and the changes that are involved with the chemical reactions, but all of that is based on math.”


What does it take for a student to be successful in this class?

“You have to pay attention in class obviously, because we do a lot of lectures, so you got to make sure you’re taking notes,” explained Mr. Hance. He also told us that it is recommended going home at night and studying your notes for at least 20 minutes, as they go through the material pretty quickly in the class and by just following in class you won’t be able to get everything. “And also, come to tutoring, we have a really big turn out at tutoring,” he said.


Is this class more memorizing or applying the knowledge?

“Applying for sure, because it’s all math,” explained Mr. Hance. He also told us that many students coming from AP Biology, which involves “a bunch of memorizing”, expect the two classes to be the same, so “a lot of times they base on their AP Bio grade”. “They think if they do well on AP Bio they are going to do well on AP Chem. It doesn’t work that way. Because it’s not memorizing, it’s all math,” continued Mr. Hance, “so, like the unit that we are on right now, Thermal Chem, everything we have learned in there is based on energy with chemical reactions and it’s based on mathematical equations that they have to use on their reference sheet.”


Which one is used mostly in this class: notebook or laptop?

Mr. Hance told us that they mainly use notebooks and laptops are rarely used. “A lot of the stuff we do is on paper because me and Mrs. Mann, the other AP Chem teacher have not found a way to do the type of problems we do digitally,” he explained.  He told us that they use some websites to practice, but by using notebooks the teachers are able to see the students’ work. “So, that’s why a lot of times we do it on notebook paper or just a worksheet, that way we can look at their work and see where they are going wrong and fix that mistake.”


How much homework does a student receive?

“It’s an AP class, so they have a lot of homework. And, again we move very quickly in the class, so they usually have at least probably three homework assignment a week. We have at least 3 homework assignments a week and then there are also expected to do a graphic organizer note, or like a doodle note, that’s due every Friday as well.”


Which grades are most of your students in?

“Sophomore, for sure. We have a few Juniors and Seniors, Upperclassmen who have taken Honors Chemistry and some of them took AP Chemistry as like an elective class because they like Chem, but it’s mainly sophomores. So they are mainly first year Chem students,” he explained.

What is the average grade in this class?

According to Mr. Hance, the average for all his classes right now is around 75%, which is about a C. This equivalates to an A in a regular class. “The good student should have at least a B in here. I always tell my students that if you do your work and you try, you can pass the class and you can actually do well in the class,” he continued, “as long as you come in and do test corrections you should have no problem doing well in the class. I know it’s a hard class, but you should still be able to do well.”


How can this class apply to real life, in the future and outside the classroom?

“So a lot of times Chemistry is used to make medicine, so a lot of times when you get to college you can branch off and you can do Biochemical Engineering or you end up going and making medicines. You can also use it to make different substances like plastics and other things that are used in the workforce like catalysts. Catalysts are a really big deal with Chemistry, they speed up chemical reactions and in the like workforce we use catalysts to speed up reactions to make things go faster. So, for example, when we like drive cars and stuff, inside cars are catalytic converters and the catalytic converter will help convert the bad stuff that a car creates like pollution into stuff that is actually not as bad for the environment. So, we can use Chemistry and the knowledge behind Chemistry to do that conversion. So, there’s is a lot of different applications of Chemistry and studying Chemistry.”


The conclusion

In the end, AP chemistry is an interesting class to take, but it does take hard work and a good understanding of math, which is the basis of AP chemistry.   

We would like to thank Mr. Hance, and his 5th period class for letting us get a sneak peak into AP Chemistry.