Below are a bunch of resources that I think are helpful for CHE 230 students. If you have any questions come to an SI session or leave a comment below. You can also upload any of your helpful resources in the comment section!
Quote of the Week
“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement, and the thrill of creative effort.”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt
Organic Chemistry Study Resources
Consider This… (October 16th, 2015)
A very common problem that students encounter while preparing for an exam is running out of problems. This is more often the case in O Chem II and III, but still tends to be a frequent occurrence in O Chem I. For example, for each chapter you receive: one worksheet made by the professor (3-5 problems), one or two worksheets made by myself and the CA (6-9 problems), and one homework assignment (~20 problems). Completing these are great, going over them a second time is good, studying them a third time is marginally beneficial, and practicing them four or more times is not helpful at all. The mistake students make is that they continue to go over and go over the same set of problems, therefore are no longer mastering the material, but rather, mastering that isolated set of problems. Unfortunately, O Chem doesn’t work that way. It requires deep fundamental understanding of the chemistry within each distinct problem. In theory, no two problems are a like.
Considering this, there is seemingly a quick and easy fix -do the problems in the book you didn’t already do- right? Sure, I guess that will work… But fact of the matter is, after your homework is completed you are only left with 10-20 problems, and if you are following proper study strategies and are preparing throughout the week, 10-20 simply isn’t enough. So you turn to your best friend in Gen Chem, Google, and try to find some practice worksheets. Great idea, right, there has to be millions of these out there? Wrong. You’re better off shooting fish in a barrel. Most worksheets people make are considered ones intellectual property and are therefore copy written, which in short means you can’t find them online. That being said, what you may find on there, usually isn’t very helpful; such that it is far too advanced, or far too elementary.
By now it may seem like there is no solution, but lucky for you, I found a way to make that 3 and even 4th time going over a set of problems as beneficial as the first and second. What I recommend is this:
- Before a chapter or section is covered in lecture, spend some time doing the homework problems relating to that content. This will be challenging, but I challenge you to accept this challenge and work as hard as you can on each problem. This will require you to read the chapter in a little more depth than you perhaps were before.
In return you have a leg up in two lights:
- Since you did the homework right at the beginning, by the time the test comes, those problems are no longer fresh in your head. Therefore, it is almost like you are doing them again for the first time.
- You are exponentially more prepared for lecture than ever before. You’ve seen what the problems look like already, therefore when the content is being discussed your mind is already retroactively applying these concepts to the problems you were just working on. This means, by the time the lecture for that section is complete, you can go back know exactly how to do each problem; or, you have an acute understanding of what you may need additional explanation on.
When to Study What & What to Study When (October 5th, 2015)
Okay, so here’s the scoop. While everyone has their own ways of studying, there is on general order of practice that I would encourage all students to attempt. This practice is merely a skeletal structure (no pun intended) that can be adapted, enhanced, and personalized in any area to maximize results. To establish ground, one of the most common questions I receive when working with students in Organic Chemistry is, what do I need to be doing during the week so that I am not cramming before an exam? So here’s the breakdown…
The overall theme is staying on top of the material. But what does that mean? For best results here is what I suggest:
- Consult the syllabus before each lecture and spend at least an hour reading the book. While it’s not essential to fully comprehend the material, the goal is to become familiar with each concept and its components. So take notes, establish a routine, and find something that works for you.
- Now that you have a general understanding of the concepts or at least have seen them all before, lecture should be used as a reaffirmation of the concepts and solidification of the major principals.
- After each lecture allocate any period of time, no less than 30 minutes and no more than 2 hours, to look back over your notes. This is the time you want to obtain an understanding of all the content covered that day, especially the more specific details that may be easy to forget. By doing this, you are having a third layer of affirmation and obtaining a better understanding of what you know and what you don’t know. This allows you to ask the right questions, because they are specific and it as targeted to what you may not completely understand, rather than a general, “I’m not sure about this concept as a whole.”
Memorization vs. Understanding (September 22th, 2015)
There’s a certain study “strategy” that people learn very early on in their academic career; in fact, it is one of the first method of study students learn; it’s memorization. Memorization serves as the go to way of understanding difficult concepts that may be new to students; why is this? In my opinion, students do this because it has worked so well in the past. From this, when students do not get the results they desire they are lead to believe that perhaps they’re simply not smart enough, or the material is to difficult. I’d like to challenge this belief, this epidemic.
Memorization was a beautiful strategy in fifth grade when we had to learn our states and capitals; it was fantastic when we had to take the constitution test; and we made it work as much as we could in high school. We have exhausted this process. There’s a point in time where the content of the material and the complexity of the course requires a level of understanding greater than that of your states and capitals. Therefore we cannot use the same strategies of learning that we used in middle school for the complex courses we take in college.
We must assess our understanding of a concept constantly while in a course as difficult as Organic Chemistry. It is imperative to have that knowledge of what we know and what we do not know- metacognition. I encourage everyone to step back and think three dimensionally rather than linearly about how to obtain that understanding. Gone are the days where memorization is sufficient enough for an A. Seek new methods of learning. Seek new understanding.
With the framework set, next week will mark the first week that I post a method of learning that I truly enjoy; I will continue to do this each week.
First Thing’s First: Note the Difference (September 18th, 2015)
So you’ve finally completed the General Chemistry sequence and made it to the infamous Organic Chemistry. You’ve heard the stories, you’ve mastered some studying strategies, and you’ve found out in some capacity what may/may not work for you; and this is all absolutely fantastic. The first and most important thing to realize about O. Chem. is that it is its own beast and unlike any other science course you’ve probably ever taken before. Therefore, strategies learned in the past are very often not applicable in O. Chem.. It is this exact notion that makes Organic Chemistry so challenging; it forces students to forget everything they ever learned for how to prepare for a class and brings everyone back to square one.
Over the course of the quarter I plan to offer a strategy each week to combat this and hopefully take you from square one to an A. Through this Odyssey, that is Organic Chemistry, it is important to never forget that what you are doing is doable and whenever you feel lost and/or in need of help, take a step back and try to look at the problem in a new way.
In short, think differently.