The elucidation of the principal features of chemical synaptic transmission has been one of the great achievements in the history of neuroscience, yet students have significant difficulties developing a deeper understanding of the underlying concept. This is particularly true for the role that diffusion of neurotransmitters across the synaptic cleft plays in this process. At least part of the learning problem is due to an erroneous view of diffusion as a slow process, and to an inability to apply the concepts of size and scale to the synapse and its structural components. To overcome these difficulties, a structured/guided inquiry activity, combined with quantitative reasoning tasks, is described for teaching chemical synaptic transmission as part of undergraduate biology or neuroscience courses. Through this activity, students familiarize themselves with the absolute and relative dimensions of the structural components of synapses; use data from morphometric and schematic models of synapses to estimate the time it takes a neurotransmitter to diffuse across the synaptic cleft; and evaluate how this process relates to synaptic delay and generation of a sufficiently high concentration of transmitter molecules for activation of postsynaptic receptors.