My Review of Exploring Creation with Chemistry, Third Edition

An Erlenmeyer flask is a typical piece of glassware used in chemistry experiments.  (click for credit)

An Erlenmeyer flask is a typical piece of glassware used in chemistry experiments. (click for credit)

In August of last year, I wrote about my initial reactions to the new edition of Exploring Creation with Chemistry. At that time, only three modules (out of 16) were available, and based on them, I thought the new edition would not be an improvement over the other two editions. Now that I have had a chance to review the entire course, I can say without hesitation that this book is a giant step backward compared to the other two editions. I cannot recommend this book to any student. It is just too flawed.

Now please understand that I reviewed the entire book and wrote the first draft of my review almost a month ago. When I got done, however, I became concerned that I was being overly harsh and nitpicky. As a result, I sent my review to two chemistry PhDs to read. One of them is a university professor, and the other is an industrial chemist who has used both the first and second editions of Exploring Creation with Chemistry in homeschool co-op courses that he facilitated. The university professor decided to give the review to two of his students, both of whom used the second edition of Exploring Creation with Chemistry in their high school education. Both of them are excelling in their university-level chemistry courses.

Based on the comments of those four individuals, I changed the review. I removed the things they thought were not real issues, and I changed the overall tone as well. In the PDF document linked below, you will find a three-page general review that outlines the problems I have with the new edition, and then a detailed list of the 77 major problems I found in the book, 11 odd things that didn’t make sense, and the 65 typographical errors that I found:

My Complete Review of Exploring Creation with Chemistry, Third Edition

22 Comments

  1. Melinda S. says:

    Thank you for posting this.

  2. Carolyn says:

    Thank you for this. I sweated thru the preview copy of the 3ed, purchased it and thought the problems were due to my own lack of chemistry knowledge. So I borrowed the 2nd ed. from a friend to compare. Much better. At least it isn’t full of typos to confuse the uninitiated. A real waste of a first semester. ๐Ÿ™ I guess we’ll have to finish next year.

    Here is an error we found that I don’t see on your list: > Module 6, Practice Problem 6 on page 240. Says the product is
    Al(CO^3)^3+(NH^4)^2SO^3 [My ^ symbol is to show a subscript. I don’t know how to produce it correctly on an iPad] However the answer key says it is SO^4 at the end. Also the test for Module 6 included writing the chemical formula with oxygen as a reactant, but for the first time in all the problems it’s supposed to be O not O2 and no explanation which is used when.

    1. jlwile says:

      I am so sorry you had such difficulties, Carolyn. Unfortunately, I don’t think you are alone. Thanks for the the extra errors. To clear things up for you, when oxygen is listed as an element, it is always O2, never O. When it is in a compound however (bonded to other elements), then there can be any number of O’2: H2O has one O, CO2 has two, H2CO3 has three, etc. Also, when it is an ion it isn’t O2. The oxide ion is a single O with a 2- charge.

  3. daybreaking says:

    Wow! Thank you for such a detailed and informative review. It’s kind of mind-boggling that a book with that many errors would be published. What a disservice to homeschoolers! Do you have any plans for your original versions of Chemistry (or any of the Advanced Courses) to be made available by Berean Builders Publishers?

    1. jlwile says:

      Berean Builders can’t publish the old editions, because Apologia still owns them. Right now, there are several used ones available, and I think that’s the best choice for now.

  4. Jenni H says:

    Thanks so much for the thorough review. I’m glad I picked up the 2nd edition on CBD.

  5. Jake says:

    Mistake 15 in the solutions manual is awful: Not all atoms stop moving at 0 K! An ideal gas of fermions fills up a sphere around the origin in momentum space at zero temperature! Electrons in atoms have to fill up orbitals with increasing energy for the same reason! Aaaa!

    1. jlwile says:

      Jake, I actually had that in the preliminary copy of my review, but one of the PhD reviewers said that it’s legit to teach that initially, because it’s what classical physics would say. In the real, quantum world, you are absolutely right. However, we do teach students to think about molecules classically in many ways, so he thinks its okay to teach the classical view of O K. I am glad that you know that’s not really right, though.

  6. Cathy says:

    Thank you for posting your review. Thank you for your honesty. It is already hard enough work to teach my children at home, but to add wrong information and bad scheduling of topics just seems insane.

    I would like to thank you for your science texts. We enjoy doing our science with you and owe you much gratitude because we can trust your work!

  7. Tammy says:

    Thank you so much for this thorough review. We did not use the new edition for our co-op because I didn’t know how long we would have to wait for the new text to arrive. We had enough copies for the kids to borrow so we made it work. I’m so thankful that we did! I have taught chemistry four times for our group and I love the 2nd edition. I do like the order of the chapters in the new text — it makes more sense to me, but with all of the other errors, the different order is not worth it!

  8. Jake says:

    I figured that that’s what you were referring to when you noted the mistake (I was aghast because my research is on ultracold Fermi gases…)

    Before I knew quantum mechanics I definitely thought that everything stops moving at T = 0, and it doesn’t hurt much for a high school student just learning chemistry to think that. Saying anything about why it isn’t true might be confusing in a class at that level. So I retract my aghast response and leave open that whoever made this change might have been thinking this.

    Though now that I think about it, saying that a bunch of electrons at T = 0 can’t all sit in the same place – and so some have to be moving around – is exactly the same reasoning we give to explain how electrons fill up orbitals (as I mentioned before). That’s the kind of amazing result homeschool students interested in science love learning about. It makes me want to write a book for them…

  9. Johannah says:

    Hello ๐Ÿ™‚

    I saw this cool article and thought you might enjoy it too, if you are not already familiar with it: http://www.livescience.com/40132-underwater-mystery-circles.html

    In Christ,

    Johannah West

    1. jlwile says:

      Thanks, Johannah. I have used this in some of my talks. It is really cool! Here’s an example of the video I show when I talk about it.

  10. NicoleM says:

    Thanks, Jay, for publishing your thoughts on 3ed.
    Where can we find pre-warning of new editions in any of your books, so that we can buy a copy of yours before they are withdrawn? I can’t afford to buy them all up now, but I would very much like to continue with your editions throughout my son’s education.
    Are you considering re-writing your texts to regain copyright?

    1. jlwile says:

      Nicole, the best thing to do is look at the cover of the book. If it has my name, then it has not been revised. If it doesn’t have my name, it has been revised. Now, that doesn’t always mean it is bad. For example, Apologia revised The Human Body, and it is better than the original. I do plan to post full reviews of all my courses that Apologia revises.

  11. Tina says:

    If we cannot find a copy of the 2nd Edition what other Chemistry would you recommend? Right now there are quite a few used copies out there but I am sure people will start hoarding them for younger kids soon ๐Ÿ˜‰ My kids won’t be ready for Chemistry for a year or two yet.

    1. jlwile says:

      Tina, I wouldn’t worry about it if you’ve got a year or two. The homeschool market is very responsive to parents’ needs. I am actually considering writing a new chemistry course so that homeschooled students once again have a solid resource for the subject. If I don’t end up doing it, I suspect that someone else will.

  12. […] Got an e-mail today that just made me angry. Seems that some online schools are requiring their teachers and students to correct the errors in the Apologia Chemistry, 3rd Edition, so that they can use it this next year. I just got to ask: Why would you pay good money for a book and have to spend hours going through it and correct it? It is a brand new book! Should not have the editors caught the mistakes? That is what they get paid for, is it not? I do know that parents/students/teachers should not have to do their jobs. Hours of student study time will be lost correcting mistakes that are obvious. The students are going to pay the price and their education will suffer using this edition. What are the schools thinking? Teachers are having to take their prep time to filter out the errors in their copies because of this misstep. It is just BAD school management to use this material! It certainly IS NOT the excellence expected of a new publication from a quality company, like Apologia. What are people thinking, or are they thinking? Are homeschoolers so desperate for the name “Apologia” that they will buy junk and make it work? I just don’t understand why anyone would enroll in an online class that uses this company’s current chemistry publication. It is our hope that they post a revised errata sheet which shows all the corrections necessary as detailed in the review by Dr. Jay L. Wile: http://blog.drwile.com/?p=13271 […]

  13. Stacy says:

    Dr. Wile,
    THANK YOU so much for this review. As I am sitting here with a rare moment to plan for next fall, I decided to look at the Apologia Chem we have planned for next year. When I saw a few poor reviews on a popular website for curriculum, I did an internet search for reviews. To have YOURS available is such a blessing.
    Now – to find some used 2nd editions for my son.

    1. jlwile says:

      You might want to wait a bit before you buy the 2nd edition, Stacy. I think there will be an alternative for next year. I’ll announce it next week, perhaps.

  14. Kim says:

    When you say next year, do you mean the next school year as in 2015-2016, or next year, 2016? Chemistry is next up for my daughter and I was all set to purchase the 3rd edition, but not now! If this alternative you’re speaking of won’t be available until the 2016-2017 school year, what would you suggest to use instead? Abeka, BJU, other? Or work with the errors in the 3rd ed? My high school chemistry experience was literally copying the teacher’s copious notes projected on the wall, every single day! And I still somehow made it through 2 years of college chemistry. Barely. My synthesis lab in organic chem never quite produced the right product for the next step. Ha! (totally an aside, but unforgettable!)

    1. jlwile says:

      I think there will be an alternative for the 2015 – 2016 school year. I will know for sure in a few days.