Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Teaching Quirks: "I'll take it"

My Chemistry class was approaching the time of year I hate: quantum number time.  It's not the actual process doing quantum numbers that's the problem.  The problem occurs when I have to explain the differences between the Bohr model and the electron cloud model. The differences are important, but so abstract. I don't have a great pitch for this one.  I've tried lectures, drawings, readings to no avail.  This year, I drew up a Bohr model atom on the board and an electron cloud model and waded into the bog.  The students this year were clearly trying to understand, but nothing was clicking.  In a last ditch effort, I flailed into Heisenburg's Uncertainty Principle when the following conversation took place:

Student A: Oh.  Is that where Heisenburg comes from?
Me: Yeah.  It's named after the scientist who figured the theory out.  Dunno what his first name is, though...
Student A: That's AWESOME
Me: *really confused* Yeah, if you figure things out,  they can name stuff after you!
Student A: *looks at me confusedly* No, I mean, don't you watch "Breaking Bad"?
Me: *lies through teeth*  Every now and again.  OH!  Yeah, I'd forgotten about that.  *laughs*  It is pretty awesome.
(Side note: The main character on Breaking Bad is a former HS teacher turned meth maker.  Too much graphic violence for my taste, but I've got the overall plot arc.  He uses the psuedonym "Heisenburg"
Student A: It's perfect because the cops know he's there somewhere but can't tell where exactly or where he's going next.
Student B: OH!  That is funny!
Student A: (To Student B) You get it now?  Like with the atoms?
Student B: No....
Student A:  The electrons are like Heisenburg!  You know they're there, but you can't say exactly where or where they're moving.
Student B: *Eyes light up* Yeah!  That kinda make sense.

And that little voice inside my head said "I'll take it. It's closer than we've ever gotten before."

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