May Contain Blueberries

the sometimes journal of Jeremy Beker

Jeff, one of my friends from college, has succeeded in getting his PhD in Chemistry and is teaching his first classes this semester. It is quite interesting to see college from the other point of view, and unfortunately quite sad to hear his stories about his intro to chemistry class. Jeff recently gave his second test and is in the process of grading them. He has been relating the weird answers he has gotten in addition to the successes and failures of his students. Unfortunately there are a lot more failures than successes.

Number of electrons in one metric ton of silver. 5.58kg.

Jeff is having a difficult time getting his students to think. The are so used to just regurgitating facts as they did in high school, that they are unable to take the facts that they have learned and apply them to the problems he has given them. Apparently this is a higher standard than the other professors in his department are using to judge their classes. Jeff is also having a hard time balancing the concern of being “too hard” on his students with actually feeling like he is treating them appropriately as college students.

How many electrons in one silver atom? -2

They also appear to lack the common sense needed to look at a problem and get a ballpark answer in their minds as they go through a problem. This is a skill that improves with time, but I would hope that by the time someone has entered college they at least have a general idea of how to approximate an answer.

So as Jeff was talking about this exam, I suggested that maybe Matt and I could take it and he could use us as an example for his class. Jeff didn’t think he should tell his class how we did, but he was amused by the idea of us taking the exam. Now as a point of reference, the last chemistry class I took was about 8 years ago, and I think Matt indicated it was 10 years since he took one. I have a physics dgree which gives me some edge, and Matt has an English degree.

I took an hour, a periodic chart, and a calculator (the same as his students) and completed as much of the exam as I could and Jeff said he would look at it in the morning, so I will hopefully get an answer I can post tomorrow. I am quite confident I should do better than his lowest grade seen so far; a 5 (and you get 4 points for signing your name). But we will see if I pass :)