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Steve and Susan Zumdahl's books focus on helping readers build critical thinking skills through the process of becoming independent problem-solvers. Their philosophy is to help readers learn to "think like a chemists" so they can apply the process of problem solving to all aspects of their lives. In CHEMISTRY: AN ATOMS FIRST APPROACH, the Zumdahls use a meaningful approach that begins with the atom and proceeds through the concept of molecules, structure, and bonding, to more complex materials and their properties. This approach encourages readers to focus on conceptual learning early in the course, rather than relying on memorization and a "plug and chug" method of problem solving that even the best learners can fall back on when confronted with familiar material. The Atoms First organization provides an opportunity for readers to use the tools of critical thinkers: to ask questions, to apply rules and models and to evaluate outcomes.