The Ties That Bind (or not)

The ways that atoms bond to make molecules, polymers, and metals are as wondrous as the ways that people bond to make friendships, marriages, and communities. The strongest tie happens when one atom gives an electron completely and unconditionally to another. The result is that the giving atom becomes positively charged and the recipient becomes negatively charged, so they become irresistible to each other. This type of bond is called Ionic by chemists and Lifelong Love by Bell Hooks. Once these molecules form, they remain intact and are not available to bond with other molecules.

Another type of bond occurs when atoms simply share a pair of electrons. This means that they have some common platonic interests. If the sharing is equal, the bond is Covalent and if the sharing is unequal, the bond is Polar Covalent.

Bonding gets really interesting when molecules form but they still have some extra electrons, or not enough. This causes them to bond in infinite arrays with other molecules that are seeking or giving electrons. This is how polymers and metals are formed. In the case of polymers, the pattern of electron bonding is rigid and repeating. This is why diamonds are so brittle. In the case of metals, electrons are shared between molecules freely and magnanimously. This is why metals are good conductors.

I have had to re-build many bonds this year. I am happy that that they now know me by name at the post office, bank, and hair salon and that neighbors walk in our kitchen without knocking. However, I am still looking for others that are on an on-line journey to become a teacher and I’ll gladly give an electron or two when I find them.

Next Up: Castles in The Air

One Week, Two Tests, and End Behavior

Stop the presses – I was out sick last week! But at least with on-line study I didn’t have to bring the teacher a note from the doctor and at my age I didn’t have to convince my parents that I was too sick to study. By Monday I was back at it, fueled by test anxiety and dreams of greatness.

I did much better this time on my chapter test, mostly due to over-preparation. I did not realize that the test materials included the Periodic Table, a List of Equations, and the Standard Reduction Potentials. On my next test I will have to strike a medium between the extremes of over-kill and under-prep but for now I’m enjoying the small victory.

Another test that I passed was a day of substitute teaching four levels of algebra at a local rural high school. In preparation, I observed the teacher for a day and met with him twice to create the lesson plans. I taught 6 classes, answered questions, gave 2 tests, fixed laptops, ate lunch in 20 minutes, calmed down some rowdies, and learned a lot about quadratic equations. Watching the students, I felt sympathetic when I recognized some of my own testing extremes. At the end of the day I had many more questions about teaching than I had in the morning.

My favorite concept of the day was End Behavior. This is the question: For any given function, what does ‘Y’ do when ‘X’ approaches positive and negative infinity? It’s difficult to imagine the ends without knowing the middle, especially when most functions, like life, are not linear. So next week I’ll stay in the middle, prepare for the next tests, and leave infinity to the mathematicians.

Next Up: The Ties That Bind

Preparation or Procrastination?

The results from my last chapter test were dismal and I am determined to perform better this time. I was under too much stress to learn anything this week, so I opted for memorization instead of understanding. I wanted to find the the latest memorization techniques and procrastinate with cause, so I turned to the internet.

I found Leo Fuchigami and hackmystudy.com. His motto is “be smart. be different”. He proposes that there are four methods of memorization that fit different types of information.

1. Chunking is used to memorize large amounts of information, verbatim. I used this technique for the formulas because the ideal chunk size is 3-4 units. This is the size of most equations and phone numbers. Apparently our brain can hold infinite amounts of information if it is broken into bite-sized pieces.

2. Visualization is effective because our brains are good at remembering pictures. I used this technique to imagine orbitals, the behavior of electromagnetic waves, and the patterns within the Periodic Table.

3. Multiple Interpretation is a mixed media approach, where the same information is presented repeatedly using alternative interpretations. This explains why Rihanna’s songs get stuck in my head. I reviewed the ABCTE material, read a text book from the local High School, and watched more episodes from the Kahn Academy.

4. The only technique that I didn’t use this week was Mnemonic. Nothing rhymed with deBroglie or Schrodinger and I couldn’t create any acronyms that apply to the complex beauty of Chapter Two: Atomic Structure, Periodicity, and Matter.

Wow. Maybe I learned something this week after all.

Next Week: The Test