A Famous Pair, and No it isn’t Sonny and Cher

When teaching SN1 and SN2 reactions to my students, this famously difficult duo is made perfectly manageable by breaking down their mechanisms side by side. I always explain to my students that these concepts can be learned and understood much like any of history's great pairs. Like Tom & Jerry, Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, … Continue reading A Famous Pair, and No it isn’t Sonny and Cher

Life is Hard Enough. Why Teach Alkenes By Function?

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?

Too Little? Too Much? Chapter 7 is just Right!

Chapter 7 in Karty’s book struck me as very unique when I first reviewed it. Initially, I considered it to be just an overview chapter that I could breeze through without much thought. After further review, I thought perhaps it covered too much material and would cause students to be confused rather than deepen their … Continue reading Too Little? Too Much? Chapter 7 is just Right!

An Enlightening Experience

Three years ago, as a first-time teacher, I took over for the previous organic chemistry professor at our university, including the textbook he was using. It was one of the most popular books organized by functional groups. After surviving through my first-year teaching, I sensed that it was confusing mechanistically. Seeing how the reaction worked … Continue reading An Enlightening Experience

A Racemization Revelation

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

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

Time Well Spent

Teaching a mechanistically organized course has many benefits. For example, I am able to spend less class time on nomenclature. This semester, I assigned nomenclature “chapters” 1-3 for the students to read outside of class, arranging them among chapters 1–10 of the text. This meant that I spent only 25% of lecture time explaining nomenclature. … Continue reading Time Well Spent