The chemistry sequence

My school has decided that next year they are going to remove both the math requirement and the grade requirement for students to take Chemistry.  I will tell you that this is a HUGE change.  For many years students have had to be in a “Junior level” or above math class AND had to have at least a B average in Biology to take Chemistry.  Now there are basically no requirements.  My first thought was ‘Halelujah!’  Unfortunately many of my colleagues are kind of panicking.

But this got me thinking:  Should all students take chemistry in high school?

I can’t believe I am going to say this, but no.  At least, not the way it is currently taught (at least the way it is taught in most schools).

The Chemistry curricula needs to change based on the needs of the students.  In my school there are  College Prep (CP), Honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes.  AP is a 2nd year course so I am going to take it out of this discussion.  The only difference between Honors and CP is the math level of the students.  What if, instead, we redivided the class based on what the students wanted to do after HS.  Here’s what I am thinking:

Honors (for Engineers)–intended for students with strong math backgrounds and the desire to pursue engineering in college.  General chemistry topics will be discussed along with chemical and materials engineering.

Honors (for science majors)–intended for students looking to pursue a career in science or medicine.  General chemistry topics will be discussed along with pharmaceutical chemistry and chemistry related to the medical field.  Students will do extensive research projects and analyze scientific studies from academic journals.  This course will be lab intensive immersing students in college-style labs and lab reports.

CP (for science majors)–intended for students who have an interest/aptitude in science, but may not pursue it as a career.  All general chemistry topics will be discussed.  This course will be lab intensive exposing students to different college-style lab techniques and equipment.  Collaboration will be expected as students will work in teams on all activities throughout the course.

CP (for the non-science major)–intended for students who may not pursue science after high school.  General chemistry topics will be discussed through a hands-on approach to the course.  The class will taught primarily through labs and projects getting students to learn chemistry through experience.  Guided inquiry activities will be incorporated and students will work on all activities in cooperative groups.  Students will be required to draw on their every day experiences to develop some of the content of the course.

I guess I am still in the academy school mindset that designs learning around specific students intended college majors.  I actually like aspects of all of these and wish they were possible in a public school.

Anyone doing a course system like this where students are taking the same course, but it is focused along different career paths?  I would love to get some examples of this taking place in public schools.


3 thoughts on “The chemistry sequence

  1. Jason

    Our school district recently shifted to 3 levels of chemistry last year. We designed it so that the top level (what we call HP) follows the first year of the IB curriculum and is for the students planning to major in science, with an option for completing a 2nd year in the IB curriculum. The “general” level is for students looking at going to a 4 year college, but not intending to major in science. The low level (“Chemistry in the Community”) is the catch-all for everyone else. MN has now required a full-year science class for all students to graduate, so we felt it necessary to have a chemistry class to account for those students even though physics could also fulfill the requirement.


  2. nothingblowsupinbiology

    A timely conversation for us in Florida. Next year's freshmen will have to take either chemistry or physics as a graduation requirement. We have been discussing how to make the course accessible for all, even those who are not very strong in math. I'm forwarding this post to my department chair so give her some ideas on how to handle this. I think your ideas are great!


  3. Ms Roy

    I like this idea, and I think it was this kind of mindset that allowed me to THRIVE in tenth grade Chemistry while SINKING in AP.

    With that said, there is a stigma attached to the CP designation. Many folks who want to go to great colleges will not want to take CP even if they do not want to be science majors.



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