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Topic: Learning chemistry  (Read 7660 times)

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Offline Skiznibbler

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Learning chemistry
« on: February 13, 2008, 10:41:45 PM »
I'm going to be studying chemistry in university next September but in the meantime I'm trying to learn as much chemistry as humanly possible before then. I've attained a fair bit of knowledge already but I'm running into a serious problem with learning. All I've been learning so far is theory and its starting to bore the living s#*$ out of me because I can't put it into practice yet. I'm learning all these abstract equations and all this theory that I haven't been able to put into action. Now learning I get tired really easily and since I'm real persistent I'm getting real angry trying to continue reading about all this because I'm getting tired and bored of it. Its really hard to learn this way.

How did you all go about learning chemistry? Did you learn with an even balance of theory and practical lab work? The problem with learning just theory is you don't get the see it in action and since you don't know what purpose it serves its hard to retain the knowledge. Do you recommend I start learning how things work in the lab and about various chemical reactions at the same time to keep my interest and motivation up? Also should I set up a small lab at home and start practicing safe chemical reactions and various lab procedures so I'll see how the theory I've been learning fits into all this?

I've ran into similar problems with electronics. Since I haven't actually started building electronic circuits I have a hard time retaining all the theory because without seeing what its for it bores the living s#*$ out of me.  The only other subject I've tried to learn on my own was web programming which I learned rapidly because I was building websites at the same time as learning. I wouldn't just read the whole PHP book and learn everything in it instead I started up a website and learned things as I needed to know them so I was constantly putting everything I learned into action. If I needed to use sessions on my site I'd learn about sessions if I needed to use cookies I'd learn about cookies. That way I never got bored or aggitated at the fact that I couldn't test my knowledge out by putting it to use.

Have any of you here ran into similar difficulties? If so how did you get around this obstacle?

Offline Arkcon

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Re: Learning chemistry
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2008, 06:57:33 AM »
When I was a kid, I read college-level chemistry books throughly well before I took high school chemistry and ... they did me very little good. ;)

I was only interested in exciting bits of the theories, not the slow slog of practical questions and as a result, was not really as far ahead of everyone else as I had thought.

Tell me, as you read the questions other people have posted, are you able to solve them easily?

And be specific, what lab practicals have you read about, that you want to do.  Chemistry isn't entirely mixing stuff and watching what happens, there is a fair bit of theory at all times.  I've bewildered people sometimes at work, I'd get an assignment, and I'd sit at my desk and start planning it out.  Some people simply insist that they never have to do any sort of paperwork, which really isn't how the world works, in any discipline.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2008, 08:11:27 AM by Arkcon »
Hey, I'm not judging.  I just like to shoot straight.  I'm a man of science.

Offline Skiznibbler

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Re: Learning chemistry
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2008, 02:43:31 PM »
I think thats the key there. You have to keep yourself interested in what your reading or its hard to retain the knowledge. When I start reading theory on something that I've done before like dilution I'm fully interested because I know how useful it is and know I will use this knowledge in the future. It may be a simple equation for dilution V1xC1=V2xC2 but if I hadn't read about it in chemistry books I would have never known the equation.

In the general chemistry section of this website I can answer as least half of the beginners question but I don't look at the questions and instantly come up with the answer. I need to think about them for a good while especially the ones that involve calculating equations.

One of the lab practices that interests me the most at the moment is distillation although I don't have a distillation kit and have never done it before. I like the idea of being able to isolate substances from complex mixtures. I'm also interested in isolating alkaloids from plant matter through extraction methods. Finally I'm interested in synthesis and other types of reactions. I like the idea of putting reactants in a reaction flask adjusting the conditions and watching the reagents react and form new substances.

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