One aspect of Karty’s text that surprised me when I began using the book was the separation of nomenclature into individual sections. My previous experience, going all the way back to my days as a student, was to have the introduction to naming tucked into other material, usually served along side the properties of alkanes, conformational analysis, or several other concepts. However, in Karty’s text, nomenclature is broken down into a number of subsections interspersed between foundational chapters. For example: NOM-1 appears between chapter 1, Atomic and Molecular Structure, and Chapter 2, Three-Dimensional Geometry, Intermolecular Interactions, and Physical Properties. Now that I have taught from Organic Chemistry Principles and Mechanisms, I see that organizing the instruction of nomenclature in this way allows students to better integrate key concepts and keeps me apprised of any problems the students are having early in the course.
The early exposure to nomenclature the textbook provides aids students in learning to draw carbon compounds. Their skills are immediately put to the test when analyzing a given structure to provide a name or when given a name and told to draw the structure it describes. As a result of being forced to analyze the different parts of a structure when practicing the application of naming conventions, several students reported becoming much more comfortable drawing structures. In a mechanistically organized course setting, this means that the tools and fundamentals integral to future understanding are concretized at the earliest opportunity. The student is taught to properly ‘read’ structures and mechanisms, and, in doing so, is given the means to comprehend the rest of the course.
This organization also has the advantage of letting me know what problems my students are having at a very early point in the semester. In my experience, nomenclature is a bit of a canary-in-a-coal-mine for organic chemistry courses, much like polyatomic ions in general chemistry; students who struggle with naming issues – like finding the longest continuous carbon chain or identifying numbering when labeling branches – will often struggle with many future topics. For example, it will be difficult to relate branching to physical properties if you struggle to identify isomeric relationships between straight-chained and branched compounds. Identifying and correcting any misconceptions students have at this point in the semester can get students back on track before they have fallen too far behind.
With all of my students successfully making the connections between structures and names, teaching from a mechanistic perspective has never been more organic.
Tune in next time when we make the leap into the third dimension…of geometry!
-Don Carpenetti, Craven Community College
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