In my recent post, Better at Mechanisms, Better at Synthesis, I highlighted research by Alison Flynn at the University of Ottawa, in which she showed that students have better success solving a synthesis problem when they draw reaction mechanisms. I recently had an opportunity to further probe this connection by analyzing my students’ success on … Continue reading Mechanisms and Synthesis Go Hand-in-Hand
There are no two ways about it—solving synthesis problems is one of the more challenging tasks that students face in organic chemistry. One reason for the difficulty is the sheer number of reactions we deal with throughout the year, perhaps a few hundred in total. Invariably my students ask me if they need to know … Continue reading Bulls-eye: Tracking Reaction Usage Keeps Students on Target with Synthesis Problems
One thing I was really looking forward to when switching to Karty’s mechanistically organized text was how reactions involving alkenes would be addressed. I expected to see the reactions simply grouped by mechanism; for example, the electrophilic addition reaction mechanisms would be grouped together, as would the pericyclic reaction mechanisms and so on. Instead, I … Continue reading Life is Hard Enough. Why Teach Alkenes By Function?
As several contributors to this blog have pointed out, Joel Karty’s text introduces biochemistry topics early in the course through supplementary sections at the end of most chapters titled, “The Organic Chemistry of Biomolecules.” Many instructors have lauded this early inclusion of biomolecular topics as a motivator for biology majors and pre-professional students; one that … Continue reading Students are Doin’ it for Themselves
In my experience, when students are writing a reaction mechanism, the most common error is to form a strong base under acidic conditions or vice versa. I stress the importance of paying attention to reaction conditions in lecture, but the “function group” based textbook previously used at Western Washington University did not contain a section … Continue reading A Racemization Revelation
We made it to the final chapter: Chapter 26 (“Polymers”). Each student is filled with a sense of pride that they have read every chapter in their textbook. Chapter 26 allows us to review mechanisms from throughout the text with real world applications. These applications are good preparation for next week’s final. In discussing them, … Continue reading You Are Ready for the Final Once You Drink Some Coffee
Our gift to you this holiday season is an end-of-the-semester song by the talented Rick Bunt of Middlebury College (sung to the tune of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”): You've had Spanish and Bio And History and Calc, Physics and Econ And Poly Sci and Soch. But starting this fall... The most difficult course of them … Continue reading Happy Holidays!