Parent’s Primer

The Parent’s Primer is a short work intended to support parents/carers who want to support their children in their Chemistry study. It consists of an overview of the concepts, with everyday contexts woven throughout. Each section ends with ‘Some questions to ask’ to help guide conversations.

Teachers – please feel free to share this with your children’s parents, either the file below directly, or by link to this page.

Any feedback gratefully received.

Best wishes, and stay safe – David


Full text of Chapter 1 is here as a PDF:

Parents Primer – Chemistry Chapter 1

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Introduction – A Parent’s Primer

The whole world – everything you can see, touch, taste and smell is made up from chemical stuff. The stuff of the world is many and varied, but dig down to the building blocks, and we find only 118 different parts. 118 different types of atoms to make up all of life, all of the inanimate, everything you can think of.

This primer is intended to take you through some of the ideas that your children will be studying in their upper secondary Chemistry lessons. Woven through the explanations are some ideas about how Chemistry links in with our everyday life.

The hope is that the following will give you a flavour of the ideas they will be working to understand. Each section concludes with some questions that may help to start or guide your conversations. If your child can explain some chemistry to you, this can help to reinforce their memories and understanding, and may help them make deeper connections between the ideas.


Elements and compounds.

Elements are the simplest substance that can exist, and there are 118 known elements in the universe. When we combine different elements together in different ways we can form millions of different compounds. Together, elements and compounds make up our world.


Some questions to ask

  • What does ‘pure’ mean in Chemistry?
  • Describe the differences between elements and compounds.
  • How are atoms and elements related?
  • Why do some elements have symbols very different from their names?

Filtration – passing a mixture of solids and liquids through a piece of filter paper. The solid stays in the filter paper, the liquid drains through. This is similar to sifting flower. The small particles of flour drop through, the larger particles remain trapped in the sieve.

Distillation – heating up a mixture of liquids, capturing the evaporated liquids and cooling them back to liquids. This is how alcoholic spirits, e.g. whisky and vodka, are made. Brewing up a strong wine-like drink, then distilling to increase the alcoholic content.

Full text of Chapter 1 is here as a PDF:

Parents Primer – Chemistry Chapter 1