Alkanes, alkenes, alcohols and acids

Students need to understand the concept of a functional group in chemistry in grouping molecules together in families that have the same kind of chemistry.

Members of a family share the same chemistry because they share the same functional group, but display a gradual change in physical properties such as melting point, boiling point or solubility. Hence the idea of functional groups and homologous series is an important organising principle in organic chemistry.

Students can find formulae confusing but need to recognise the two most common ways of representing structures: structural formulae and molecular formulae.  Students need to understand that isomers have the same molecular formula but different structural formulae. Students may have met empirical formulae already. It often takes students time to settle with the different types of formulae but an understanding of this aspect is critical to development of the subject and so is worth spending a little time on.

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