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Understanding Coefficients and Subscripts

Understanding coefficients and subscripts is essential when balancing equations (and for many other topics in chemistry). In this video you learn the difference and how to correctly use both.

Strategies for Success:

  • Coefficients are used for balancing equations. They are the number in front of compounds or elements.

  • Subscripts come after the element symbol and indicate the number of that element. In H2O the "2" means there are two H atoms.

  • If there is no subscript after an element symbol, we assume it to be "1". In H2O this means there is "1" O atom.

Key Information

When balancing chemical equations our goal is to have the same number of each type of atom on both sides of the equation.

You can only change the coefficients when balancing!

Coefficients are the numbers in front of the molecule.

Balanced equations provide ratios between substances. The coefficients can be thought of as mole ratios.