Mechanisms Make Everything Easier

My first teaching responsibility upon coming to Northern Arizona University was our ten-week Organic Chemistry II summer course. Besides never having taught a summer ten-week session, I had never taught organic chemistry from Karty's text. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Karty's text was organized by mechanisms, making lecture preparation, and overall flow of … Continue reading Mechanisms Make Everything Easier

When Should Resonance be Taught?

In my textbook, resonance is presented rather extensively in Chapter 1 (“Atomic and Molecular Structure”), ultimately teaching students how to draw all resonance structures of a given species. I like to teach resonance to that depth early in the course because it reinforces topics that are vital to student success throughout the entire year of … Continue reading When Should Resonance be Taught?

Ending on a Good Note

A few days ago I returned the second exam of organic II, the bulk of which covered nucleophilic addition and nucleophilic addition-elimination reactions. The following day, a student came to my office to ask questions about the problems she missed. This particular student got off to a rocky start at the beginning of the semester … Continue reading Ending on a Good Note

Building a Solid Foundation Gives the Student More Confidence

When I was in ninth grade, my family built a house. I remember my dad, who is an engineer, regularly checking on the progress and quality of the foundation. He knew that the foundation was the most important part of the house. Building a proper foundation took a lot of time, but it was important … Continue reading Building a Solid Foundation Gives the Student More Confidence

Lone Pairs and Aromaticity

One of the things my students find most challenging about aromaticity is whether to include lone pairs as part of a cyclic π system. If a lone pair is included, then the number of π electrons increases by two, and a student’s prediction about whether a species is aromatic will also change. What I think … Continue reading Lone Pairs and Aromaticity

Getting Students to See Things Our Way

Research in chemical education has repeatedly trumpeted the message students do not see things the way we see them. However articulate or engaging we are, explanations, demonstrations, and worked examples do not guarantee that students view chemistry the way we do. For example, when I recently asked students to direct me on how to draw … Continue reading Getting Students to See Things Our Way