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Chemistry LibreTexts

1: Matter, Measurement, and Problem Solving

  • Page ID
    37662
  • Chemistry is the study of matter and the changes that material substances undergo. Of all the scientific disciplines, it is perhaps the most extensively connected to other fields of study. As you begin your study of college chemistry, those of you who do not intend to become professional chemists may well wonder why you need to study chemistry. You will soon discover that a basic understanding of chemistry is useful in a wide range of disciplines and career paths. You will also discover that an understanding of chemistry helps you make informed decisions about many issues that affect you, your community, and your world. A major goal of this text is to demonstrate the importance of chemistry in your daily life and in our collective understanding of both the physical world we occupy and the biological realm of which we are a part.

    • 1.1: Atoms and Molecules
      Chemistry deals with the composition, structure, and properties of matter, and the ways by which various forms of matter may be interconverted. Thus, it occupies a central place in the study and practice of science and technology. Chemists use the scientific method to perform experiments, pose hypotheses, and formulate laws and develop theories, so that they can better understand the behavior of the natural world. To do so, they operate in the macroscopic, microscopic, and symbolic domains.
    • 1.2: The Scientific Approach to Knowledge
      Chemists expand their knowledge by making observations, carrying out experiments, and testing hypotheses to develop laws to summarize their results and theories to explain them. In doing so, they are using the scientific method.
    • 1.3: The Classification of Matter
      Matter can be classified according to physical and chemical properties. Matter is anything that occupies space and has mass. The three states of matter are solid, liquid, and gas. A physical change involves the conversion of a substance from one state of matter to another, without changing its chemical composition. Most matter consists of mixtures of pure substances, which can be homogeneous (uniform in composition) or heterogeneous (different regions possess different compositions & properties.
    • 1.4: Physical and Chemical Changes and Properties
      All substances have distinct physical and chemical properties, and may undergo physical or chemical changes. Physical properties, such as hardness and boiling point, and physical changes, such as melting or freezing, do not involve a change in the composition of matter. Chemical properties, such flammability and acidity, and chemical changes, such as rusting, involve production of matter that differs from that present beforehand.
    • 1.5: Energy: A Fundamental Part of Physical and Chemical Change
      All forms of energy can be interconverted. Three things can change the energy of an object: the transfer of heat, work performed on or by an object, or some combination of heat and work. Thermochemistry is a branch of chemistry that qualitatively and quantitatively describes the energy changes that occur during chemical reactions. Energy is the capacity to do work.
    • 1.6: The Units of Measurement
      The natural sciences begin with observation, and this usually involves numerical measurements of quantities such as length, volume, density, and temperature. Most of these quantities have units of some kind associated with them, and these units must be retained when you use them in calculations. Measuring units can be defined in terms of a very small number of fundamental ones that, through "dimensional analysis", provide insight into their derivation and meaning.
    • 1.7: The Reliability of a Measurement
      Quantities can be exact or measured. Measured quantities have an associated uncertainty that is represented by the number of significant figures in the measurement. The uncertainty of a calculated value depends on the uncertainties in the values used in the calculation and is reflected in how the value is rounded. Measured values can be accurate (close to the true value) and/or precise (showing little variation when measured repeatedly).
    • 1.8: Solving Chemical Problems
      Measurements are made using a variety of units. It is often useful or necessary to convert a measured quantity from one unit into another. These conversions are accomplished using unit conversion factors, which are derived by simple applications of a mathematical approach called the factor-label method or dimensional analysis. This strategy is also employed to calculate sought quantities using measured quantities and appropriate mathematical relations.
    • 1.E: Matter, Measurement, and Problem Solving (Exercises)
      These are homework exercises to accompany the Textmap created for Chemistry: A Molecular Approach by Nivaldo Tro.

    Thumbnail: Two small test tubes held in Spring Clamps. Image used with permission (CC BY-SA 3.0; Amitchell125).