Day 90: Burt Macklin, FBI

For Day 90, after we whiteboarded the empirical and molecular formulas worksheet from Monday, students worked on a very important problem for the FBI.

The FBI is trying to gather evidence on a suspected drug dealer whose apartment they searched. They found a white powder that they believe is cocaine but the suspect claims it is just crushed up Tylenol.


Burt Macklin isn’t so great with the chemistry though so he enlisted my students to help out with the case and find the empirical formula and identity of the mystery powder.

I had students complete this problem using Kelly O’Shea’s whiteboard speed dating game. I let students pick their partners to start with, without telling them that they would not be with those partners for long. After a few minutes, I had every student get up and find a new partner and a new board. The students then had to continue the work on their new board. I made everyone switch one more time before they managed to solve the problem. I usually have students rotate boards but the free-for-all method worked out pretty well today and didn’t require any special rearranging of my classroom. Students actually ended up working with some people they wouldn’t normally work with as well.

I love whiteboard speed dating for a lot of reasons:

  1. It gets students up out of their seats and moving which keeps a lot of them more on task than if they were sitting
  2. It gets students to work with people they wouldn’t usually work with
  3. It allows students to see problem-solving strategies used by other students
  4. It encourages a deep understanding of the problem at hand because students have to analyze and continue the work of other people who they cannot communicate with
  5. It encourages students to show and organize their work so other people can understand it

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