Firm hold on first principles

29th December 1995 at 00:00
UNDERSTANDING CHEMISTRY FOR ADVANCED LEVEL 2ND EDITION. By Ted Lister and Janet Renshaw. Stanley Thornes Pounds 21.50. - 0 7487 1978 4.

CHEMISTRY IN CONTEXT. By Graham Hill andJohn Holman. NELSON STUDENT'S BOOK 4TH EDITION. Pounds 19.99. - 0 17448191 8 LABORATORY MANUAL AND STUDY GUIDE. 3RD EDITION. Pounds 13.99. - 0 1744 82310 Teacher's Notes free - 0 1744 8241 8


FOOD SCIENCE. - 0 582 23349 6. TEACHER'S GUIDE 0 - 582 225870 7.

Longman Pounds 6.99 each. A Level Chemistry Materials Science. By E N Ramsden. Stanley Thornes Pounds 10.99 - 0 7487 1807 9.

A LEVEL CHEMISTRY BIOCHEMISTRY AND FOOD SCIENCE By E N Ramsden Stanley Thornes Pounds 10.50 0 7487 1806 0 Age range 16 plus

Students starting A-level need sound basic knowledge. Hugh Rippin reviews textbooks offering these foundations At a time when increasing numbers of students are beginning A Level chemistry with a minimum of secure knowledge and understanding of the subject, the need for high quality textbooks has never been more important. The second edition of Understanding Chemistry fits the bill admirably. While the first impression of being crammed with detail may be off-putting and the distinctive blue print with bold red headings takes some acclimatisation, Ted Lister and Janet Renshaw have produced a superb, comprehensive teaching textbook.

The lay-out is easy to follow and encourages even the most reticent reader. With the help of "self-check" questions the student is led sympathetically through the most difficult concepts. The authors have a happy knack of informing without daunting and yet not appearing to patronise. The balance between formal text, anecdotes, diagrams and pictures is excellent, as are the frequent learning tips. The colour picture of the authors in the alcohols section is a delightful touch and typifies the thoughtful, warm approach of the whole work.

Chemistry in Context is a "Rolls Royce" of a textbook. Its clear print and lay-out coupled with a judicious use of colour make it an attractive and comfortable read. This fourth edition includes new material on instrumental analysis, quantitative electrolysis and environmental aspects of chemistry, but the authoritative style and content of the successful earlier editions are essentially unchanged.

Partnering the new "chemistry in context" is the third edition of the Laboratory Manual and Study Guide which has been completely up-dated to link with its companion volume. Although primarily planned to go with the main text, the manual is self-contained and can be used on its own. Those who value practical sessions as the life blood of chemistry and teachers who are casting around for subjects for individual student investigations will find this new resource indispensable.

The instructions are clear and easy to follow. Hazardous substances and operations are identified and appropriate precautions are recommended. In an attempt to prevent blind recipe-following, each practical offers thought-provoking questions.

The manual includes 35 objective tests and an Activity Section designed to develop comprehension, data analysis and similar skills.

The diversity and relevance of the passages are first class, tackling modern topics such as ozone depletion, hydrogen-fuel for vehicles and Bucky balls as well as traditional chemical issues such as rust and the kinetics of enzyme catalysed reactions. Separate teacher's notes, provided free, give support material and answers to the objective questions. No progressive chemistry department should be without at least one copy of this resource.

The tendency for modern A level syllabuses to provide option topics and individual student investigations adds breadth and relevance to courses which can stimulate student interest in and "ownership" of their studies. To teachers buried under mountains of paperwork and desperate to preserve some semblance of a social life they can present yet one more time-consuming challenge. The arrival of special topic texts to dispense vital knowledge in areas barely touched by standard texts is timely indeed.

A student book and teacher's guide support the A Level Nuffield Chemistry Special Studies. The Food Science resources are based on a revised edition of the previous course and Materials Science comes from a revision of Metals as Materials.

These books are well written and clearly presented with relevant experiments to support the theory. Although they were prepared specifically for the Nuffield course they could find more general application.

E N Ramsden's Material Science and Biochemistry and Food Science are new publications written as companions to the author's A Level Chemistry. They were produced with a number of syllabuses in mind and give clear and detailed coverage of their topics, making them excellent reference books. The summaries in the margins are fine study aids, not to mention off-the-shelf teaching notes.

Hugh Rippin is head of chemistry at Chenderit High School, Banbury, Oxfordshire

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