She wrote to tell me that she took my general chemistry course (which is out of print – I recommend using this one now) and my advanced chemistry course several years ago and is now in college, pursuing a degree in nursing. She says that college chemistry is going well, and it is bringing back a lot of good memories, so she wanted to thank me for being an integral part of her homeschool-high school years. Of course, that meant a great deal to me. However, I have to admit that I was more intrigued by something else she wrote:
As a homeschooler, you were one of my first “favorite professors” (next to my parents and Andrew Pudewa). Extrapolating from your often-humorous, lighthearted writing style, I invented a jovial stickman-character of you who often appeared in the margins of my books to make comments (together with the three Chemistry Nerds and Mr. Mole).
If you have ever experienced a class with Andrew Pudewa, you would know that it is no insult to finish behind him in a student’s “favorite professors” list, but that’s not what really intrigued me. I wanted to learn more about this “jovial stickman-character,” so I asked her if she would mind sending me some examples, and when she did, I spent the next several minutes laughing out loud!
The image above shows you the stick-man character. I think it’s a pretty good likeness, except that I am a lot heavier and have more hair. What I found hilarious, however, is the way Jessica portrayed some of my favorite phrases that I use while teaching. For example, when I am teaching a concept that uses a lot of facts or requires a lot of inferences, I realize that at first glance, it confuses a lot of students. As a result, I usually say something like, “Is your head swimming from that? Don’t worry…” and then explain that by the end of the discussion it will be a lot more understandable. Here’s how Jessica portrayed it:
Probably one of the most challenging topics in general chemistry is the mole concept, which is essentially a way of counting molecules or atoms. If you can figure out the number of moles of a chemical, you can use it to analyze a chemical equation. To do that, however, you need to determine how the moles of one chemical relate to the moles of the other chemicals in the equation. I call that developing “a mole relationship.” Here’s how Jessica portrayed that oft-repeated phrase:
The character on the right is called “The Guy Who Hates Mole Jokes.” This one features him as well:
Jessica sent several wonderful cartoons, but I will end with just one more. When I am teaching a topic that requires a lot of mathematical analysis, I find that it is best to introduce the math in the middle of the topic. I explain some of the concepts behind the topic, then I discuss the equations and how to apply them, and then I wrap it up by explaining what it all means. As a result, when I am done with the math, the students can solve the equations, but they don’t fully understand what the solutions mean. At least not yet. Thus, they often have a number to which they can’t assign any real meaning. At that point, I often say something like, “This number doesn’t mean anything to you, but that’s okay.” I then go on to say that eventually, the student will understand what the number actually means. Here’s how Jessica portrayed that one:
While I doubt that anyone finds these as funny as I do, I suspect that other students who have suffered through my chemistry and physics courses (both in high school and at the university level) will appreciate them!
NOTE: I asked for and received Jessica’s permission to use her drawings in this post. I also offered to send her the post prior to publication, but she said that wasn’t necessary. I hope she enjoys it!