I recently read a great interview with a professor of general and organic chemistry at The Master’s College. (The link has been removed now, so you can’t read it yourself unfortunately.) Of the thirteen questions asked, one was regarding those who want to know more about science but are intimidated by mathematics.
One of the biggest concerns I had about teaching chemistry to my little band of homeschoolers was the intense math required. I knew that was going to be a huge obstacle for them, and had the potential to make a year of chemistry a hateful endeavor, instead of something they were excited about.
In the interview Dr. Taylor Jones said, “If one is interested in science as a layman, most of science can be explained satisfactorily in qualitative terms, i.e., without math. For the prospective student of science, recognize that acquiring proficiency in problem solving takes longer than any other type of learning. Be patient. In the beginning, how to do problems is more important than why the method works. Learn to accept that proficiency may lag behind understanding. You learned to ride a bicycle long before you learned that it’s gyroscopic behavior that allows you to ride.”
The first half of his answer was very encouraging to me, because I have two students who definitely fit in the description of “layman”. Chemistry is a requirement for them, so our primary goal is to complete the class for graduation. However, I don’t want that to be our only goal by far! I also hope that they will be inspired, and acquire another reason to respect the world God created.
The second part of the answer was also encouraging to me, because I have one student who is very interested in a nursing field. This sweet girl is not a gifted math student, but at some point she will need to master some of these difficult concepts to attain her goals. His answer gave me confidence that she will be able to do it in time. For now we will continue putting one block on top of another as she builds on her math abilities. She is loving our living chemistry course, and is inspired to reach for her goals, rather than being put off by what may have seemed like an insurmountable task for her.