A New Semester, A fresh Foundation

As a new fall semester dawns, my mind turns inevitably to the fresh crop of students that will soon be struggling with Lewis structures containing many more atoms than they are accustomed to. Teaching at a community college brings some advantages, like having organic students that you have taught through both semesters of the general … Continue reading A New Semester, A fresh Foundation

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

Cooler Temps, Shorter Days, and the Start of Organic I

I have been teaching organic chemistry for a long time (several years ago I had a wonderful student who pointed out that I taught her dad!). The beginning of first semester of organic chemistry is always clunky and sometimes even painful. How does one make it through the first class without going through every detail … Continue reading Cooler Temps, Shorter Days, and the Start of Organic I

Solving the IR Puzzle

My three year old son recently has shown interest in solving puzzles. He dumps the pieces on the floor and randomly clicks them together until he finds a match. This is often the same approach that students take to problem solving in organic chemistry. To help my students work more systematically, I introduce IR early … Continue reading Solving the IR Puzzle

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

Applying MO Theory Toward Reactions… Or Not

There are two fundamentally different applications of molecular orbital (MO) theory in an undergraduate organic chemistry course. One application is toward various aspects of structure and stability of molecular species, including such things as the stabilization that occurs from the formation of a covalent bond, hybridization, rotational characteristics of σ and π bonds, conjugation, and … Continue reading Applying MO Theory Toward Reactions… Or Not

What Role Should the Organic Textbook Play in Helping Students Transition From General Chemistry?

Early in my teaching career I realized that a large percentage of my organic chemistry students weren’t carrying forward nearly as much from their general chemistry course as I had expected. This is a potentially enormous problem because without command of, and the ability to apply, several concepts from general chemistry, students will find it … Continue reading What Role Should the Organic Textbook Play in Helping Students Transition From General Chemistry?

Lewis Structures and Wild Geese

The title of this post attempts to link two disparate conundrums: the role of mnemonics in teaching chemistry and our expectations of students’ abilities to draw Lewis dot structures. Memorization is not a popular topic among most teachers because of its low position in Bloom’s taxonomy. In chemistry, and certainly in organic chemistry, we discourage … Continue reading Lewis Structures and Wild Geese