Use of Spreadsheet Simulations in University Chemistry Education

Kieran F. LIM

School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University
Geelong, Victoria 3217, Australia

(Received: April 10, 2006; Accepted for publication: August 25, 2006; Published on Web: September 15, 2006)

Students who are strong in logical-mathematical intelligence have a natural advantage in learning and understanding chemistry, which is full of abstractions that are remote from the material world. Simulations provide more-inclusive learning activities for students who are weak in logical-mathematical intelligence.
A second advantage of using simulations is that they are not limited by (for example) the quantised energies, integral masses and discrete expectation values of real atoms and molecules. Numerical experiments can be used to investigate the effect of continuously varying atomic mass, bond distance or any other property, from one value to another.
Finally, students are more familiar with spreadsheets than more advanced mathematical packages such as MathCAD, MAPLE, Mathematica and other symbolic algebra software. Use of these advanced packages presents additional learning hurdles for students and should be used only for advanced classes. Furthermore, spreadsheets are capable of a level of sophistication that is greater than commonly expected. This can be achieved without the use of MACROs.
Examples from the author's teaching are used to discuss the advantages of spreadsheet simulations for learning chemistry.

Keywords: Spreadsheets, Chemical education, Simulation

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