My students like steps for everything. I like steps for things when I’m learning too. Can’t blame them!
Use these steps, or check out this worksheet, for helping students understand how to get the info about protons, neutrons and electrons out of an element.
#1 Know Your Atomic Number
Make sure your students know where the atomic number is and what it is.
It is often confused for the mass number. I like to use this worksheet to clarify the difference, but you can just explain it to them or have them illustrate why they are different.
I tell my students that the atomic number is the smaller number and it is just protons. They like short and sweet definitions.
#2 Know Your Mass Number
Tell them this number is always the bigger number because it has neutrons and protons included in it.
Emphasize to the students that mixing these numbers up is one of the major causes for losing points on the test. That will get their attention.
#3 Define the Calculations
When I have a class of students that gets confused on which number to subtract, that’s when I draw out the difference and show them the difference in atomic number and mass number. Subtracting them backwards wouldn't give any information!
Once they see that the protons are what is canceling out and you are just left with neutrons, it really seems to help those students who need to know why, why, why we need to do that.
#4 Explain the Calculations
I use a cheat sheet like this to color code and lay out how to calculate protons, neutrons, and electrons.
If you have read some of my other blogs, or bought my stuff on TpT, you know I like to color code. Notice on here positive protons are yellow to stay on theme. Plus, it is a nice subtle clue for students.
If your students understand atomic numbers and mass numbers they will be able to figure out protons neutrons and electrons.
As I mentioned earlier, this worksheet is amazing for that. Plus, if you have more advanced students, just use it as a hand out.
If you would like homework or class work for your students to find protons, neutrons, and electrons, try out this worksheet. It is more for practice than the other worksheet I sent you to earlier.
Your students will thank you for giving them a quick reference to remember how to calculate protons, neutrons, and electrons when they are prepping for the midterm exam.
Hi! I'm CoScine. I write chemistry worksheets for visual learners. They are fun, easy to follow, and most of them are quick to grade. Since I started my teaching career at the college level, these aren't just simple chemistry. These worksheets are hard core science made fun.