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Chemistry Analogies


Chemistry is considered as one of the abstract subjects that is difficult to teach. Its concepts are abstract, so students should be introduced to various strategies that enable them to understand and remember these concepts easily.
In Chemistry, concepts have three levels: macroscopic, microscopic and symbolic.
The Macroscopic level can be perceived through the five senses in the form of lab experiments, daily experiences, virtual labs, or simulations that are performed especially during the remote learning.

When it comes to the microscopic and symbolic level, it is totally abstract; it encompasses the structure and process at the level of particles. All these levels should be integrated to ensure that learning outcomes are properly achieved.
One of the useful strategies to teach abstract concepts is the “Analogy”. It is a comparison of similarities between two concepts (a familiar one and the abstract one). The familiar one is called the analog, and the abstract one is the target.
Different analogies are used to explain the abstract concepts in chemistry. Below is a list of some concepts and their analogies that are used in different schools:

Analog (familiar)

Target (abstract)





Helium and hydrogen as a component of the sun

Proton and neutron

Periodic table


When we want to adapt an analogy, we have to ask ourselves if it is clear, useful, or confusing. We have to check students’ familiarity with the analog.

Based on this, I have decided to create analogies that are more familiar to our students especially to the students with special needs in order to reinforce their understanding and make chemistry learning more fun.

Below is a list of some of the analogs and targets that I usually use with my students. I found them beneficial especially throughout online learning and its restrictions.






-      Castle

-      Garden

-      Princess in the castle

-      Guards in the castle

-      Prince in the garden


-      Nucleus

-      Electron cloud

-      Proton

-      Neutron

-      electron

Atomic-Kingdom Analogy was introduced to students in the form of a story presented through PowerPoint

Price of a bag of vegetables

-      price of one apple= 1$

-      price of one nut = 0$ (for free)


Nuclear charge

-      charge of one proton  +1

-      charge of one neutron = 0

Price-Charge analogy was introduced to students in the form of problem- solving exercise presented on paint.

Two countries in conflict

-      The bigger country

-      The smaller country

-      UNIFIL

-      A spy for the smaller country

Periodic table

-      metals

-      non metals

-      metalloids

-      Hydrogen element

Countries-Periodic table analogy was introduced to students in the form of breaking news presented on paint.


Using these analogies has had a great impact on my students. These analogies motivate students construct their own knowledge, provide visualization of abstract concepts and enable them to make comparisons between the real world and new concepts. Finally, they help students understand and remember what they have learned in class.

Maha Shebly
High and Middle School Chemistry Educator