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Chemistry, in my opinion, is the most widely applied subject in the educational system. You can apply chemistry when you're cooking, cleaning, filling up your car, brewing beer or wine, welding, dating (carbon and speed dating), and thousands of industrial processes. I once heard from one of my chemistry professors, Dr. Chad Morris, "Chemistry is applied physics, and physics is applied math." Therefore physics, chemistry, and math all work in harmony.   You probably apply chemistry every day and don't realize it. When you make coffee in the morning, ever wondered about the chemistry involved in making a cup of joe? You have to first grind the roasted coffee beans to expose the caffeine and flavor compounds housed within the beans. You then have to filter hot water through the grinds to extract the much needed caffeine and flavors. Water works as a solvent to dissolve the polar caffeine and flavor molecules which pass through the coffee filter and into your... read more

I think, by far, the most important part of being successful in organic chemistry is the ability to stay on top of the material. I'll start with this piece of advice for those you who are planning on completing both sections.     Make flashcards.   I know, I know, it's advice that everyone gives for every type of memorization, but I think that it especially helps with the amount of new reactions that you will see, especially in orgo II.   My recipe for the cards is to make cards that have the reactant(s) and the reagent(s) with a question mark where the product(s) would be.   e.g. CH3CHCHCH3 -----Br2----->  ?     This way will help you to recognize which reagents do what.   The other style is to leave out the reagents.   e.g. CH3CHCHCH3 -----?-----> CH3CHBrCHBrCH3   (You'll want to draw them out probably, but this software doesn't allow that)   If... read more

If you are like me, you want to get a head start on things -- "hit the ground running," as they say. What better way than to get started on the new year in academics! I always found that when I was in high school or college, summer reading was very enjoyable. There were no deadlines -- I could nestle up by a tree and read for hours. I recommend giving it a shot.   When it comes to chemistry, what better way to get started than reading some basics. One of my favorites is Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. It is a great overview of science in general. I also recommend John Gribbin's In Search of Schrodinger's Cat. It is an amazing story about the discovery of quantum mechanics and is a must for all explorers of science.   It is also a good idea to get a chemistry set and do some basic chemistry experiments. It is a fun and interesting activity! A lot of chemistry experiments can even be done in one's own... read more

I have found many schools unable to expose students to math and science in the laboratory environment due to costs. I have found a great place fro students to work on all kinds of math and science activities on line. I have all of my students work on the speed drill under arithmetic. Fluency in math is critical.  Please take a look at this website and let me know what you think.   http://phet.colorado.edu    

The education system, such a complex and convoluted series of practices and hierarchies, where does the student of the 21st century fit? Education now-a-days seems to have a greater goal of higher efficiency compared to student individuality in the class room. With a ballooning population, low teacher salaries, and out dated resources, we are in for a crisis situation in the coming decades with our current system. So many individuals I know that have entered the teaching field with the mind set that they are going to shake things up, and really start to perpetuate a difference, have more often than not been met with stark opposition and resistance. Something that people may find counter-intuitive at best. The education system isn't going to change overnight, that the beauty of incorporating a tutor into a student's life. This gives the student the individual one on one attention that a growing, curious mind deserves. I'm a scientist in my day to day life, holding a BS in Microbiology... read more

                Let us be brutally honest here. You, the student, have spent the last few weeks agonizing over doing well on the chemistry regents and subsequently had nightmares about the prospects. Even being a victim of Freddie Krueger “Nightmare on Elm Street” seemed to have much more appeal than preparing and taking the chemistry regents. On the BIG day you probably put on a good face as you made your way to your seat. Then, you sat down just in time so that your classmates didn’t see your knees knocking together and detect that anything was amiss. Once the test started you turned the pages and looked at the problems. At this moment you wished you could just get up and leave and never come back. Instead, you take a few minutes and hope that the question would somehow trigger some signal in your brain that would unearth some forgotten memory of how to solve the problem in front of you... read more

The school year is nicely wrapped up and New York students are filled with trepidation at the prospect of encountering the chemistry regents face to face which is just a few short days away. Next Tuesday to be exact. Admittedly, there is not much time to learn concepts that should have been learned earlier on in the school year but if you absorbed just a few critical elements along the way you should do pretty well. In other words, you need to put your thinking caps on. One thing that you should have picked up is the concept of the ionic bond. In everyday English, this translates to an electron from an atom( the less electronegative one) is literally transferred to the atom with the greatest electronegativity. Electronegativity is in my estimation is a hunger for electrons in an atom by another dissimilar atom. It actually is an electrostatic attraction for the electron from the lesser electronegative atom. The electron that was transferred... read more

The school year is nicely wrapped up and New York students are filled with trepidation at the prospect of encountering the chemistry regents face to face which is just a few short days away. Next Tuesday to be exact. Admittedly, there is not much time to learn concepts that should have been learned earlier on in the school year but if you absorbed just a few critical elements along the way you should do pretty well. In other words, you need to put your thinking caps on. One thing that you should have picked up is the concept of the ionic bond. In everyday English, this translates to an electron from an atom( the less electronegative one) is literally transferred to the atom with the greatest electronegativity. Electronegativity is in my estimation is a hunger for electrons in an atom by another dissimilar atom. It actually is an electrostatic attraction for the electron from the lesser electronegative atom. The electron that was transferred... read more

The Spring 2014 semester has ended, along with my first full semester of tutoring. Reflecting back on my roster of students, there’s one piece of advice I want to offer the next batch of students. If you’re starting to struggle in a class, find a tutor NOW. Don’t wait. Why the urgency, you ask? Because once you start to slip behind in a course, it’s an uphill battle to regain the ground you are losing. I think there are two connected reasons for this: 1) You start spending your time worrying about your performance and your grade. You aren’t focused on learning the material; you’re focused on your anxiety. 2) Because you’re worried about your performance, you are losing valuable time that you could be spending on your studies. As a tutor, I can help you learn the material. I can offer you insights on how to improve your performance. And with more time to work with you, I have a better chance of helping you reach your academic goals. Tutors... read more

As human beings with limited time, energy, and resources, we naturally desire to get the most done with the least amount of work possible. From reading books and experimenting throughout the years, I have accumulated a collection of techniques that maximizes efficiency and has allowed me to achieve a 3.93 GPA while studying less than three hours a day. Below are some of these techniques. Although I have separated it in general and chemistry study tips sections, these study tips can be applied to every class you will ever take in high school & college. Furthermore, some of these tips, especially the blocking technique, will skyrocket your ability to get more done in less time not only in school, but in life in general. I hope these tips will benefit you as much as they have and continue to help me. General Study Tips 1. Study in purely focused block periods Our body functions in cycles. For example, our circadian rhythm dictates when we sleep... read more

It is natural that as tutors we get called in to the help kids that are struggling.  It is no surprise that almost 100% of my students have attention problems.  I love to see the beauty in these kids' minds.  They can be so talented.  But the drawback is when you have to tutor them in a subject they don't enjoy or shine at.  I find myself constantly trying to keep things exciting and they usually respond.  But what do you do when the kid who has been doing his best just gives you the cold shoulder, falls asleep in your one-on-one lesson, or is just staring into space?  I know from experience that not everything is going into a black hole when I am explaining something to a "zoned-out" student.  But what do you do on days when you know everything you are saying IS going in a black hole?  Please share your tips!

I am studying stoichiometry with a student right now. It can be confusing sometimes to think about the two or three steps required to reach your final answer. We ran into a problem that required converting weight to moles of reactants, converting moles of reactants to moles of product using mole ratio, converting moles of product back to weight, and then finally calculating the percent yield. Anybody can get lost in this soup. Take the time to write down the units at each and every step. If your units don't add up, then you know that you didn't do the problem right.    When you're down and they're counting When your secrets all found out When your troubles take to mounting When the map you have leads you to doubt When there's no information And the compass turns to nowhere that you know well   Let your units be your pilot Let your units guide you They will guide you well

Now that finals have passed for most of the college students on the semester schedule, I'd like to reflect on the panic that arises when students in required introductory physical science classes come to the end of a course and realize that they haven't retained anything! What is the correct approach to triaging such situations? Of course, the best way to engage with material is by answering questions that are similar to those that will be on the examination, and most professors will be kind enough to tell you what the format and types of questions will be. Generally, there are two types of questions you will find: qualitative and quantitative. I'll deal with the best way to study for each type of question in turn.   Qualitative Questions The tendency here is to think that cramming and memorizing facts is the best way to go to answer such multiple choice, free response, or essay questions on qualitative subjects. However, this is not often the case.... read more

A lot of my students always wonder.  Why is Chemistry so hard?  Why is Chemistry important? A teacher that I look up to once told me there is no higher road to learning.  There is no way around learning science other than practice, practice, practice.  Make sure that you are employing problem solving skills.  When you approach a problem, one technique that I always use is to write down all the information that I can gather from the text body of the problem.  And then write down what the question is asking for.  This will always give you a hint as to which formula to use.  This works with Chemistry, Physics, Math and a innumerous other scientific subjects. Is Chemistry really hard?  Yes it is.  It is a narrow road that Medical Schools and the like use to "weed out" their students.  Why Chemistry, you say?  The problem-solving technique that you use to approach Chemistry problems is the same problem-solving... read more

10g                                 ?g 1. Na2CO3 + Ca Cl2 = CaCO3 + 2NaCL   In the equation above 10 g of Na2CO3 react with unlimited amount of CaCl2. How many grams of CaCO3 is produced? In the given reaction one mole of Na2CO3 produces one mole of CaCO3. Mole is MW(Molecular mass) in grams. For Na2CO3 MW is 23 *2 + 12 + 48 = 106 g. = 1 mole For CaCO3 MW is 40 + 12 + 48 = 100g. = 1 mole. 106 g of Na2CO3 produce 100g of CaCO3  10 g of Na2CO3 produce X g of CaCO3   X= 10 * 100 / 106 = 9.4 g  CaCO3 is produced.  

1. NaNO3 = NaNO2 + O2 Let us write half reaction of the oxidation and reduction. Initially nitrogen has charge +5 And at the end of reaction it has charge +3. How do we calculate that? In NaNO3 oxygen has charge -2. Sodium has charge +1. The molecule of NaNO3 is neutral. It means that negative charges inside NaNO3 molecule must be equal to positive charges. Na (+1) + O3 (-2 x 3) = 1 - 6 = - 5. Then nitrogen has to be + 5 to make the molecule neutral. In NaNO2, nitrogen has charge +3. Nitrogen must receive 2 negative electrons to change its charge from +5 to +3. 5 + ( - 2) = 3 So we can write N5+ + 2e = N3+ | 2 Oxygen initially has charge -2. At the end of reaction it becomes neutral and has charge 0. So, we can write 2O2- - 4e = O2 | 4 Combine two half reactions and get: N5+ + 2e = N3+ | 2 2O2- - 4e = O2 | 4 Since 2 and 4 can... read more

Every student that I have tutored in organic chemistry asks me how I became adept at this rather challenging subject.  I tell them all the same thing: use your resources. A teaching professor that I worked with taught me from his many years of teaching experience, when a student utilizes at least seven resources, their mastery of the subject of organic chemistry increases (linearly), i.e., the average improvement was one to two letter grades over the course of a semester.  These resources include, but are not limited to, going to class, reading the text, taking and reading over notes from class, attending study groups, outside tutoring, supplemental instruction (SI), reading a concise supplemental text, working problems, etc.   Organic chemistry is a difficult subject to understand when you are taking it for the first time (and after!). To become successful at, and to truly master organic chemistry at the level required for graduate school or medical school... read more

Many introduction to chemistry courses teach what is called the "plug and chug" methodology. It's a shame but the truth. This method is a shortcut to get to an answer but limits the students ability to understand core concepts in chemistry. I encourage my students and tutees to throw off this method and learn the basics. By working from the ground up students can attack a problem they've never encountered in chemistry and feel confident. It takes more work to get to this point but once you're there all the tension that constantly surrounds chemistry student seems to melt away!!    Take the time to master the basics. Once you do chemistry seems not to be the momental task it once was. Chemistry is work and takes time, but it does not need to be a source of frustration!!

Students are often shocked when I bring in physiology, general biology, physics, and other topics into a chemistry lesson. Perhaps the problem is generated from the fact that we think of disciplines as separate silos. If you're a chemist, you can't be a physicist or a biologist. Rubbish! Chemistry is the basis of so many technologies that we enjoy in life. A solid grasp of the subject will make a student better in a different field.   Enjoy the journey, and see where the connections take you. In the end, you'll be glad that you removed the boundaries to see chemistry in all its glory.   ~Dr. D

I was tutoring a student the other day in physics and, in trying to explain the usefulness of writing the fundamental equation before solving a problem, the strangeness of spontaneous analogy struck again.  Looking at my teenage protege, I told him, "Physics is like a soap opera.  Unless you define the relationship, you won't have any idea of what's going on."  After a stunned moment of silence, we both laughed then went back to the problem. But oddly, after thinking about it, this analogy works better than any I have ever come across or invented when describing the math-intensive sciences.  There are so many equations and variables out there for chemistry and physics that keeping them straight is like trying to work out a relationship tree for "All Our Children" or "The Young and the Restless".   That's where practice comes in. Like watching a soap or any tv show weekly, daily practice with equations... read more

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