Oftentimes, when I talk with students, I compare the organic chemistry lecture series to a study-abroad experience: the first semester is when students learn the language, and the second semester is when they become immersed in the content. Within this dichotomy, I view nomenclature as a vocabulary-learning process (e.g., ketones, carboxylic acids, alcohols, and so on). And what I find particularly rewarding about the mechanism organization of the Karty text is that it allows students to apply their use of nomenclature in a more holistic way.
Nomenclature can be memorized through flash cards, though this only helps with short-term memory. Rather, application and integration are what truly move material from short-term to long-term memory. Returning to the study-abroad analogy mentioned above, students, before starting their adventures, need to spend some time learning the new language so that by the time they arrive in their new destination, they’ll be able to understand the world around them. Once they spend some time living in their new environment, they’ll then need to use and apply their knowledge of the new language and adapt it to their new lifestyle. For organic chemistry, it is the students’ routine application of their new vocabulary—nomenclature—that helps support them as they move through the class. In particular, it is pen-to-paper practice that promotes their overall mastery of the course material and prepares them to more easily tackle complex concepts, such as mechanisms and synthesis, later on.
As noted earlier, although my course is taught in a mechanism organization, when discussing reactions, I still like to point out the nomenclature while spotlighting the functional group as we move through the synthetic steps. For example, an alkene is transformed with electrophilic addition when exposed to elemental bromine gas. In this reaction, I would name the starting material and product. This proactive “sprinkling in” of the nomenclature allows students to practice their analytical thought, which is fundamental to their success in the real world. Many of my students are enrolled in pre-professional programs with their future sights set on medical and other graduate schools. To successfully complete these vigorous programs, students have to use their critical-thinking skills to work through each synthetic step. In turn, students’ analytical mindsets serve as vital assets in their future occupations as physicians, chemists, engineers, and more.
Because of the relevance that organic chemistry has beyond the classroom, nomenclature is a topic that needs to be continually discussed in a complementary manner. I appreciate that the mechanism organization of the Karty text facilitates students’ understanding of the importance of nomenclature and how it relates to synthetic steps and electron movements—the foundational concepts of organic chemistry. This choice to supplement organic mechanisms with nomenclature not only sets students up for success in the course, but it also sets them up for success in their future pursuits of graduate school and professional programs.
-Kerri Taylor, Columbus State University
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