Ten Elementary Steps Are Better Than Four

Mechanisms can greatly simplify learning organic chemistry because the hundreds of reactions that students need to know have mechanisms that are constructed from just a handful of distinct elementary steps. This is easy for us professors to see—after all, we’ve been through the year’s reactions and mechanisms multiple times. Students, on the other hand, must … Continue reading Ten Elementary Steps Are Better Than Four

Seeing the Big Picture

As the semester comes to a close, I have been reflecting on my lectures and experiences with a mechanistically organized course. The Karty text has presented many different types of reactions; from all of the reactions, I want the students to be aware of the central theme in ALL organic mechanisms. In every step, there … Continue reading Seeing the Big Picture

MO Theory? NO Problem

Students at Western Washington University are first introduced to the concept of molecular orbital theory in Organic Chemistry I. It is briefly mentioned in the general chemistry textbook, but it is excluded from covered content in first year classes. First year chemistry students are introduced to the concept of atomic orbital hybridization, but with surface … Continue reading MO Theory? NO Problem

All Downhill After the Aldol

Ah yes, it is that time of year again; a seven week coast to the Organic Chemistry II finish line. All the elementary steps have been introduced and discussed multiple times and it feels like review from here. Most texts seem to end with reactions like Aldol condensation and Robinson Annulation. A functional group approach … Continue reading All Downhill After the Aldol

How the Ten Elementary Steps Unified My Course

For years I told my students they shouldn’t merely memorize a list of reactions. But what were my actions really telling them? In the last textbook I used, the alkene chapter began with nomenclature, then covered Markovnikov addition of H-X and water, halogenation and halohydrin formation, and ended with hydroboration/oxidation. The next chapter that covered … Continue reading How the Ten Elementary Steps Unified My Course

Building on their Knowledge: From Atoms to Multi-Step Synthesis to Curing Sick Puppies

Karty’s mechanistic approach to organic chemistry provides the content organization to facilitate student success. In a functional group approach students are more likely to apply an incorrect mechanism to solve a synthetic problem. This is because classification by functional group does not provide an organizational level that allows students to classify reactivity. Organization by functional … Continue reading Building on their Knowledge: From Atoms to Multi-Step Synthesis to Curing Sick Puppies

My Most Productive Start of the Semester Ever

The first time I taught out of Joel’s text, I had no idea where I was going to put the semester break. I enjoyed how well each chapter flowed into the next, but that left me wondering where to put a five-week break. I was used to a traditional ordering of subject which resulted in … Continue reading My Most Productive Start of the Semester Ever

It’s My Favorite Time of the Year! Chapters 6 and 7

It’s my favorite time of the year. Finally, we get to do chemistry in organic chemistry! Not to malign BDE, IMF, chair vs. boat conformations, etc., but I have always thought of the stuff leading up to this point—strains and conformers, the designation of stereochemistry and the terms and rules associated with their nomenclature—a bit … Continue reading It’s My Favorite Time of the Year! Chapters 6 and 7

An Easy Transition into the Second Semester

Every year I struggle with the same question: How do I transition students into the second semester of organic chemistry? In the first semester, my students learn how to study chemistry from a mechanistic point of view in order to understand reactions rather than memorize them. After learning the basic elementary steps that make up most … Continue reading An Easy Transition into the Second Semester

Teaching Solvent Effects Early Helps Keep Students’ Heads From Spinning

We started Chapter 9 in class a couple weeks ago, where we learn how to predict the outcome of the SN1/SN2/E1/E2 competition. Similar to how it’s done in most books, we do this by first learning about the major factors that influence the rate of each reaction in this competition. But unlike other books, this … Continue reading Teaching Solvent Effects Early Helps Keep Students’ Heads From Spinning