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Exploring ELL Strategies: Rearranging Gas Law Equations through Graphic Organizers
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By Claudia V. Turcios, University of Houston-Downtown


Figure 1: Back of Gas Laws Graphic Organizer. The back of the graphic organizer displays the combined gas law equation that students receive on a formula chart.

As a science educator, many students are faced with an ample amount of word problems that need to be solved using a stem equation that comes from memorization or a reference chart. Many students know what needs to be solved but cannot solve for the final answer because of the unknown variable. Furthermore, they fail to properly manipulate an equation algebraically. Algebraic manipulation requires scaffolding in the science content areas such as chemistry and physics where general equations are given. Teachers have started to implement scaffolds, such as Graphic Organizers (GOs) and Advanced Organizers (AOs) in the science classroom to aid students’ learning (Rivera & Baker, 2013). The combined gas law (see Figure 1) can be taught through a GO (see Figure 2) for any student population to algebraically manipulate the gas law equation.

Algebra in Science


Algebraic manipulation is considered a complicated math skill in the general curriculum (Rivera & Baker, 2013). Many students, including English Language Learners (ELLs) are often faced with difficulties of learning the general curriculum in algebra (Rivera & Baker, 2013). Rivera and Baker (2013) found that teaching methods using GOs enabled students’ math retention.

Chemistry in the Classroom

In any given unit, a teacher must always pre-assess students to determine prerequisite material. Unfortunately, time spans do not allow for algebra remediation. In order for students to learn material and feel comfortable with it scaffolding must take place. Özmen (2011) indicated that the construction of the GO helps students recall information previously learned. GOs assist in providing teachers with a user friendly instructional strategy (Rivera & Baker, 2013) and save repetition time by allowing students to look at their GO (see Figure 3).

Figure 2. Front of Gas Laws Graphic Organizer. The front of the graphic organizer displays the combined gas law equation without the fraction and how to solve for each variable.

In the Classroom

ELL students were provided with a teacher modeled GO using 1.5 sheets of paper (to create a stair step) to aid in the retention of algebraic manipulation. The class has an idea of what the gas laws variables stand for, but repetition is essential. The combined gas law equation is written on the back of the GO through my document camera. I rearrange the equation by taking away the fraction and write each variable onto a stair step flap. I write how to solve for each variable, starting with the combined gas law equation. I also start to be extremely consistent with math verbiage, “If I see it at the top and bottom, it cancels out.” Eventually the students see the repetition and patterns.


Chemistry is a subject that entails that students must go home and practice. Teachers with a high population of ELLs need to give students ample practice time within the classroom time to ensure the students show substantial effort in understanding the concepts being learned. As a teacher, I believe that chemistry is a subject that cannot be read and understood: it requires practice. Yet, there is an unforeseen disconnect in between the mathematical concepts of chemistry as it relates to algebra to students. Typically in gas laws, we are solving for an unknown variable. Students are only given a formula chart with the combined gas law equation on it. They must be able to solve for the unknown variables on their own.

Figure 3. Inside of the Gas Laws Graphic Organizer. The inside of the graphic organizer allows students to remediate how to solve for the unknown variable.

Future Research

As a result of this study, GOs and AOs are a tool to aid the learning of new concepts. It was often thought that providing a scaffold ensured that all students were to be successful. Understanding scaffolds that do not ensure success, gives an insight into a new method for teaching the gas laws equation. A future idea would be to determine if the variable x was integrated instead of P1, P2, T1, T2, V1, or V2. The students have a thorough background of mathematical proportions and x seems to be a starting point that could scaffold their learning into new variables that are often used in chemistry.




Özmen, R. G. (2011). Comparison of two different presentations of graphic organizers in recalling information in expository texts with intellectually disabled students. Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice, 11(2), 785-793.

Rivera, C. J., & Baker, J. N. (2013). Teaching students with intellectual disability to solve for x. Teaching Exceptional Children, 46(2), 14-21.

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