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CPD taster - Maths for A level chemistry

This is a CPD taster created to give teachers a better understanding of what to expect when joining one of our secondary mathematics in science courses. Below you will find a video and a task for you to do in your own time. Once you have done the activity, book on Maths for A level chemistry (NY297).

How confident are you when teaching the mathematical content at A level chemistry such as the manipulation of logarithms and exponential functions? Has your teaching changed as a result of the increased mathematical demand in both the GCSE and A level chemistry specifications? How has your department adapted?

As a result of this increased mathematical demand, many chemistry teachers now wish to improve their own understanding of the mathematics required in order for their students to be successful in chemistry. The Maths for A level chemistry course provides strategies for meeting this demand. The course explores teaching methods and activities that can be used to support A level chemistry students.

In this video, Michael Anderson, Mathematics Subject Specialist at STEM Learning, explains more about what you’ll learn on the course. Below you will find a short task to start you thinking about the types of activities you will be guided through on this CPD course.


The following question is a typical A level chemistry question. Attempt the question, and as you do consider what difficulties students may encounter when attempting this question.


An experiment is conducted at 15\(\textrm{°C}\), and the rate constant is found to be \(0.543~\textrm{mol}^{-1}\textrm{dm}^{3}\textrm{s}^{-1}\).

Use the Arrhenius equation, and the fact that A is \( 1.7 \times10^6~\textrm{mol}^{-1}\textrm{dm}^{3}\textrm{s}^{-1}\), to determine the activation energy in \(\textrm{kJmol}^{-1}\).

\[ k = Ae^{\frac{-E_{a}}{RT}} \]


  • \(k\) = rate constant, units depend on the overall order of reaction
  • \(A\) = pre-exponential (OR Arrhenius) factor, same units as \(k\)
  • \(E_{a}\) = activation energy, in \(\textrm{Jmol}^{-1}\) rate constant, units depend on the overall order of reaction
  • \(R\) = rate constant, units depend on the overall order of reaction
  • \(T\) = temperature, in \(\textrm{K}\)

Example responses

Now consider the following student responses. Each student has made a different mistake. Take a moment to consider what you would say to help correct each student. How do you currently approach this topic in your teaching? How can we explain the concepts involved to minimise the number of mistakes students make, and to avoid any misconceptions?

\[ 0.543 = (1.7\times10^{6})e^{\frac{-E_{a}}{8.134\times15}} \] so \[ e^{\frac{-E_{a}}{122.01}}=3.194... \times10^{-7} \] so \[ \frac{-E_{a}}{122.01}= \ln(3.194... \times10^{-7}) \] so \[ E_{a} = -122.01\times\ln(3.194... \times10^{-7}) \] \[ E_{a} = 1824~\textrm{Jmol}^{-1}~(4s.f.) \]

Next steps

In the summary video, Michael explains what you can expect from attending the Maths for A level chemistry course.

Book your place on Maths for A level chemistry (NY297).

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