Chemistry is an extremely tough subject for many students. They simply can’t get a grip on this subject! Having guided many students during chemistry tuition classes, chemistry tutor Mr. Joel Liu explains what makes chemistry so difficult for many students.An understanding what makes chemistry difficult is the first step towards doing well in this subject!

Chemical Symbols are Confusing

Huh? I don’t get it!

Why can’t the chemical symbol for Sodium be So instead of Na? Wouldn’t that make chemistry a lot easier? Turns out, these chemical symbols are based on their Latin names, which is why Na was used for Natrium which is the Latin name for Sodium. (Then why can’t they change it to English instead of Latin!) These chemical symbols can be confusing and difficult to grasp which creates an additional barrier to learning Chemistry.

Chemistry uses Math


I need to count for Chemistry?

For those mathematically challenged, another barrier in chemistry is the use of math in Chemistry. Whether is it calculating the number of moles or in balancing chemical equations, you just can’t run from math. Sometimes students use their calculator and get -3.8 x 10^-3 as their answer, which might be correct but they interpret it as 0.00038 (it should be 0.0038). While it seems like these students find chemistry tough, it is actually their weak foundation in math that hinders them from excelling in chemistry.

Chemistry uses both memory and problem-solving skills

There are people who excel in subjects that depend on memory work, like biology and history. Another group of people tends to excel in subjects that rely on logical thinking and problem-solving skills, like math and physics. Chemistry is a unique subject that sits in between these 2 skills. There is memory work involved, yet students also have to apply their problem-solving skills to answer questions. This is why students often struggle in chemistry, as one who has either skill set would do well in certain subjects but not chemistry. One needs to be equally adept at both!

Students can’t see Chemistry in real-life


credits: thatscienceguy

Many times, students complain in frustration that “I can’t see the molecules! How do I know it is there?!” To which I usually reply, “Neither can I see your brain! Pretty sure it’s still there!” Everyone uses math on a daily basis to count money, while other students can see how biology is at work all the time, but students don’t use chemistry on an everyday basis and hence find it extremely difficult to relate to Chemistry. Students can also try some physics experiments at home, but it can be dangerous to try any chemistry experiments at home.

It’s tough because everyone else says it’s tough!

Students can be easily influenced and sometimes they get influenced by their friends who find it tough. So before they even try to engage the subject, they already have the preconceived notion that it will be a subject they struggle in. Don’t be negatively influenced by peers. Instead, it helps to have an open mind when approaching chemistry. Once the basic concepts are fully grasped, it can be a wonderfully interesting subject.

To conclude, chemistry is indeed a tough subject that uses both memory and problem-solving skills. The chemical symbols also add another barrier to learning chemistry. However, this subject can be made easier by simple steps like drawing mind maps, putting in some effort to be familiar with the chemical symbols or by brushing up on math. If your child is not doing well in school, here are 12 things you can do when your child doesn’t do well in exams.


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