STEM Education Poetry

Word Choice

“Chemistry’s challenges:
Math-centric, too;
Order accrues.”

The 7 September 2020 poem was another “macroscopic” one, looking at some of the big-picture properties of chemistry as a discipline.  It sums up many of the challenges seen in introductory chemistry courses.

“Chemistry’s challenges: /
Nomenclatorial; /
Configurational; /
Math-centric, too; /
Terminological; /
As I’ve alluded to in a few of the recent posts, many of the double-dactyl poems were inspired by identifying a specific “double-dactyl” word itself: one that has six syllables.  That trend reaches its zenith in this poem, with five of the eight total lines in the poem using such words! 

Four lines allude to specific challenges in learning chemistry via double-dactyl descriptors.  “Nomenclatorial” encompasses the complex naming schemes found throughout the branches of chemistry. “Configurational” refers to the necessity of learning to see molecules in three dimensions and consider their shapes (configurations). “Terminological” summarizes the immense challenge of approaching any complex disciplinary vocabulary, with all its specific terms and definitions. “Diagrammatical” addresses the practice of learning to read and use informative diagrams/depictions interchangeably with words and equations (e.g., a chemical mechanism or a potential energy surface).  

The “math-centric” designation does not involve a double-dactyl word but is another major part of learning chemistry: learning to efficiently use and interpret a wide variety of calculations, graphs, and formulas.

“Disciplinarily, /
Order accrues.”
The last two lines involve one more double-dactyl word, with “disciplinarily,” and then a play on words: contrasting the familiar phrase “chaos ensues” with one of the biggest goals of disciplinary communication and conventions: “Order accrues.”  Taking an introductory course in any subject involves an introduction to the lens via which that discipline organizes and interprets information about the world.