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Cellular Respiration and Photosynthesis – Important Concepts, Common Misconceptions, and Learning Activities

These Teacher Notes summarize basic concepts and information related to energy, ATP, cellular respiration, and photosynthesis. These Teacher Notes also review common misconceptions and suggest a sequence of learning activities designed to develop student understanding of important concepts and overcome any misconceptions.

The attached files describe the key concepts, common misconceptions and suggested learning activities (in Word and PDF formats).

CellularRespPhotoOverview.docx4.38 MB
CellularRespPhotoOverview.pdf1.09 MB


Jayden's picture

Physical science

Cellular respiration and photosynthesis was very interesting and taught me a lot of things

Scott Weber's picture

Comment regarding ATP synthesis

While it was fascinating (and slightly embarrassing) to learn that we have known since 2003 that approximately 29 ATP molecules are produced per glucose, not 36-38, I must take issue with the connected statement that "Only about 30%the energy released by the cellular respiration of glucose is captured in the production of ATP..." Despite the drop from 40% to 30%, as is my understanding, CR, and ATP Synthase particularly, is still the most efficient engine as far as retaining energy not lost to heat on Earth.

iwaldron's picture


Thanks for your comment. The term "only" is appropriate if you think students would be naïvely comparing the efficiency of ATP production to 100%, but inappropriate if you think students are comparing efficiency to other energy transformations. I leave it to each individual teacher to edit the sentence according to what will be most helpful for their students.


minet's picture


Thank you again for all the help in making biology fun time in our homeschool. My daughter has ADHD but with all the interesting experiments she learns most of the work through the experiments and draws the experimens with her own notes...

iwaldron's picture

2016 revision

The revisions have added information about additional common misconceptions, increased the sophistication and accuracy of the descriptions of chemical energy and energy metabolism, and incorporated descriptions of the updated recommended learning activities. 

iwaldron's picture

2014 revision

This overview has been revised to increase focus on the most important concepts, improve clarity and update the suggested learning activities.

zulkifli simatupang's picture


this article may help me and my wife to prepare teaching biology in high school, thanks

iwaldron's picture

revised version

The May, 2011 revision incorporates additional information that should be useful in teaching about energy, cellular respiration and photosynthesis.

Ingrid Waldron

dennis panganiban's picture


this article may help me in teaching biology,.. thanks

Ingrid Waldron's picture

revised version

I am preparing a revised version of this overview article, which I believe will be more informative and helpful than the current version. Unfortunately, this new version may not be completely finished and ready to be posted for several weeks. In the meantime, if you would like to see the current draft of this revised version, please send an e-mail to and I will send it to you.

Ingrid Waldron

Darren Kelly's picture


Please send my a copy, thanks.

iwaldron's picture

revised version has been posted

The revised version has been posted and is available through the link at the top of this page.

Ingrid Waldron

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