Tips for Teaching the Sodium Potassium Pump

I had always felt that there were limited resources on the sodium potassium pump. The Na+/K+ pump is an important little protein that is the pinnacle of “active transport”- though endocytosis and exocytosis are important cell functions, it’s also important for students to know that transport proteins may also require the use of ATP. Otherwise, students may falsely make the distinction that proteins= facilitated diffusion.  Sometimes if students do not understand something, they may dismiss it or form misconceptions.

The sodium potassium pump in particular needs to be presented in such a way that shows how it changes its shape and that it pumps 3 Na+ out and 2 K+ inside.  Typically, I’d show my students a video or two, talk about the sodium potassium pump a bit, and call it a day. However,  I didn’t have any valuable resources that the students could carry with them, so I decided to create a coloring and analysis activity:

Sodium Potassium Pump by Biology Roots

(This is available for purchase this here).

The coloring activity is great for such a visual concept.  The resource also contains an analysis page with 8-10 questions or fill-ins depending on which version- there are  three differentiated versions that are suitable for high school, middle school, or an advanced anatomy class (which need to know resting potential vs. action potential). I like having these handy because as you know your classes can change every year!

Here are some other resources I’ve used to help teach the sodium potassium pump:

Penn State Cell Transport– nice clear diagrams and written descriptions of all types of cell transport including the sodium potassium pump.

Khan Academy- The Sodium Potassium Pump (he goes into resting and action potential towards the end- also a couple of times he says  sodium instead of potassium- no judgement here- but, it might be a good idea to preview beforehand to make sure that his bloops won’t interfere with your kids’ learning styles).

Animation- how the sodium potassium pump works

A step-by-step animation of the sodium potassium pump (with option to remove audio).

I also offering coloring pages for endocytosis and exocytosis, passive transport, and hypertonic/hypotonic/isotonic environments.





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