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Chemistry Lab: How Big Is A Mole?

Two facts we all know about teaching chemistry:

  • The concept of a "mole" is absolutely crucial to the teaching of our class.
  • Many of our students struggle with this concept every single year.
According to the textbook:  A mole is the quantity of a substance that has a mass in grams equal to its molecular mass and contains Avogadro's number of particles.   I think that many students memorize the definition of a mole, but fail to grasp the concept of a mole.  I want my students to be able to visualize a mole and to have a grasp on the size of a mole of substance.

I just added a new lab to my yearly chemistry curriculum.  It is not really an "experiment" but more of a review and reinforcement of the mole concept. The idea of the activity is very simple:  Students are given ordinary household substances and are asked to determine how many moles are in a teaspoon of the substance.

  1. To determine the number of molecules and/or atoms in small amounts of everyday substances.
  2. To determine how many moles of chalk it takes to write your name on the board.


  • Balance           
  • Weighing dishes        
  • Plastic spoons
  • Water              
  • Salt (NaCl)                 
  • Sugar (C12H22O11)
  • Chalk              
  • Chalkboard    
I had the students find the mass of a teaspoon of a substance.  From this mass, I had students determine the number of moles of substance, the numbers of molecules of substance, and the number of a particular atom within the substance.  The bottom line is that this activity provides repetitive practice in mole conversions.

I was a little concerned that my "sophisticated" high schoolers would find this activity too elementary.  Wrong!!  They embraced the activity whole-heartedly and came away with a better understanding of the "size" of a mole.

The activity concludes with a student-designed experiment.  I asked my students to design an experiment to determine the number of moles of chalk required to write their name on the chalkboard.  Students had to write the steps of their procedure, construct a data table, and convert their data to moles and molecules.  SO SIMPLE, but my students had a great time with this.  They enjoyed comparing the "size" of their name to that of their classmates.

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  1. I downloaded your chemistry lab from teachers pay teachers. We did it today for Mole Day and it was fabulous. Best two dollars I ever spent.

  2. I am delighted you liked the lab. My students always enjoy it, and it it gives them so much practice with mole conversions. Thanks so much for letting me know it was successful for you.

  3. Thank you for this simple but fun lab.