Month: October 2014

Delay Reactions, Hasten Understanding

In my early years of teaching, I would break the ice the first day of class by asking my students what they know about organic chemistry. Without fail, the first student to respond would say something to the effect of: “It’s really hard! I’ve heard that there are so many reactions to memorize!” A low

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Biomolecules Hidden in Plain Sight

When I consider adopting a new textbook for a course, I have one main concern: my audience. I teach a wide variety of students; the chemistry major who began doing research his freshman year on his path toward graduate school, the psychology major who is concerned about his GPA and preparation for the MCAT, the

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Taking the Fear Out of Lengthy Mechanisms: A Good Type of Problem from Chapter 7

Even if a student intends to devote a great amount of time and effort to studying mechanisms and to using mechanisms to understand reactions, their efforts can be easily thwarted by the sheer intimidation of relatively long mechanisms. Years ago, when I was still teaching under a functional group organization, I would hear gasps and

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Solving the IR Puzzle

My three year old son recently has shown interest in solving puzzles. He dumps the pieces on the floor and randomly clicks them together until he finds a match. This is often the same approach that students take to problem solving in organic chemistry. To help my students work more systematically, I introduce IR early

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What I Want my Students to Be Able to Do by the End of the Quarter

When designing a course, many of us focus on content, with questions like ‘How do I cover the text in 30 weeks?’. This year, however, my course design started with a different question: ‘What do I really want students to get out of the organic chemistry sequence?’ and more immediately, ‘What do I want my

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Warning: Use of the Student Manual May Result in Fewer Questions from Students

At the beginning of each semester, I make sure to emphasize the importance of working through problems in the textbook. For each chapter, I give students suggested problems to do, but with over 200 students in my organic I lecture this fall, it is impossible for me to know how well they are following my

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