Last updated 8-30-05
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Syllabus for CHM-130: Fall '05, Section 1111: MWF 7-7:50am
Instructor: Ken Costello

The images shown above represent the evolution of chemistry. For example, on the left the four recognized elements were fire, air, earth, and water but it turned out that none were elements. We now recognize 114 elements, with my favorite being element 111 called unununium. The other images also has their stories, which we will discuss in class.

Welcome to the Fundamentals of Chemistry. Dividing a chemistry topic into three areas of focus makes it easier to understand.

The building blocks focus sees chemicals coming from simpler building blocks.

Chemistry also involves force and energy. Attraction and repulsion of + & - charges guide the assembly of atoms and chemicals.

The third part of chemistry involves mathematics. The Earth represents the Metric system which is based on Earth measurements and water.


Chemistry is a vast subject, more than you or I could ever know, but fortunately learning the fundamentals of chemistry is possible. One fundamental of chemistry is understanding the electrons, neutrons, and protons that make up atoms. It’s amazing that everything you can see or touch is made from these three tiny particles. However, their microscopic world is very bizarre, similar but stranger than Hollywood’s virtual world called the Matrix. After learning chemistry you will look at the world differently just as Neo did in the movie.
The key to learning chemistry is to keep it simple as long as possible. For example, what is paper made of? The simplest answer is something you already know; It’s made of electrons, neutrons, and protons. Later you might say carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, and even later say cellulose. In other words, learn the fundamentals well and they will give you answers, perhaps not the most complete, but enough to build confidence and steer you in the right direction.

Textbook: Fundamentals of Chemistry by Ralph A. Burns, 4th Edition. On the left is the textbook. I don’t follow the textbook that closely, but it could make a good resource for you to supplement the material in my lectures.

There is also a Study Guide available that could also be useful, but I don’t use it right now.

The textbook may or may not come with a CD-ROM. It doesn’t matter if you get it or not.

You will also need a scientific calculator for the class. However, you won't need it until the fourth week of the class.

Below is some contact information. The map shows you how to get to my office from the classroom. The email here is the one I prefer even though I do have a MCC email address. The one below is just for CHM130 students. The Web page at the bottom of this graphic will take you to a place where I will have links to various PowerPoint presentations I give.
Things you should expect to get out of this course.
  1. Gain an appreciation of chemistry: its value to society, its role in history, the effort to get this far, the modern marvels.
  2. Learn about chemistry’s building blocks from light > gamma rays > matter/antimatter > protons + electrons + neutrons > atoms of the elements > compounds > organic vs. inorganic > small compounds (CH4, CO2, H2O, SiO2) > large compounds (sugars, amino acids, hydrocarbons) > macromolecules (starch, cellulose, proteins, DNA)
  3. Learn about the fundamental processes in chemistry: Purify, analyze, synthesize.
  4. Learn the fundamental behaviors of atoms: Electrostatic forces, the bizarre world of quantum physics, chemical bonding, and the periodic behaviors indicated in the Periodic Table.
  5. Smarter consumer of chemical products: Better understanding of labels, smarter at reading past the hype or paranoia, and better at recognizing pseudoscience.
  6. Improved chance of survival: Knowledge of neutralizing acids/bases, better avoidance of chemical dangers, better at improvising, better at solving problems, and better at critical thinkin
Also check out course competencies at:

Special Learning Needs: If you have any special learning needs, let me know, but first visit our Disabilities Resources & Services Office. They will work with both you and me to find ways to help. Deaf students will enjoy the many visuals I use in class. Visually impaired students with some vision can get my PowerPoints so they can view them in the library’s Adaptive Lab. Totally blind students will have a bigger challenge, but I am willing to try some alternatives.

TEST: A four letter word: No one likes tests, even teachers. In the old days, when people learned by apprenticeship, there wasn’t a need for tests because the master knew how the apprentice was doing by watching him or her and regularly asking questions. However, in a classroom of 40 students, the instructor may have no idea how much a student has learned, so a test is one way of finding out.
        One philosophy of teaching is that instructors are only sure that they have taught the subject if they find out that students have learned the subject. In other words, I must ask you a lot of questions to see if both you and I are doing a good job.

Everyone gets it correct: My expectation is that everyone understands everything on the test and gets it 100% right. Everyone may not get it 100% the first time, but they should get it correct on the 2nd, or 3rd time. It makes no sense to go on when there is something critical missing. Much of chemistry builds off the previous material. Of course, a person who takes three tries to get a question right doesn’t deserve the same amount of credit as the person who got it right the first time. But getting it right the third time still deserves credit.
On problems you missed, you have the opportunity to be retested with a similar problem. You get 85% of the score you would have gotten if you got it right the first time. For example, if you miss a 10 point question but get a similar one correct on the retest, you make 8.5 points, which is much better than losing all 10 points. You just have to make an extra effort to do it again. In short, I’m more interested in you learning the material than giving you low grades. I’m not eager to do extra grading, but I’m willing to do that if you are willing to put in the time to restudy and retest on what you missed. Final grades are not based on a curve, so students who ace a test the first time shouldn’t worry about the students who retake the test to improve their scores.
GRADING is not an exact science: I really hate to talk about points for two reasons: First it takes your attention away from the subject. Second, it implies that grading is accurate down to the last little point. It would be hard to prove that a person with 524 points actually knows more than someone with 523 points. Mathematically it seems accurate, but in actuality grading is approximate. When a teacher says one question is worth 15 points and another is worth 10 points, the choice is rather arbitrary.
With this said, we can use points because it is easy to work with, but it is only approximate.
People who focus only on learning the subject do better than those who worry about grades. That’s because when you worry about points and grades, you are not thinking about the subject. Listen and learn in class and grades will take care of themselves.
In case you are still interested, here is the breakdown of points that will serve as a guide to your grade
Daily quizzes (Attendance): 100 points 3 tests: 100 points each totaling 300 points Final test: 100 points Poster project: 100 points Miscellaneous assignments: 100 points
Total: 700 points
Grades are 90-100%=A, 80-89%=B, 70-79%=C, 60-69%=D, Below 60%=F
If your points are close to a better grade, I will always give you the benefit of the doubt and give you the better grade because, like I said, grading is not that accurate.
Notice attendance is a big contributor to your grade because of all of the daily quizzes.
If you miss an exam, I will handle it on a case-by-case basis. It all depends on the circumstances involved.
I again apologize for this much attention drawn to tests and points. Being aware of them is good, but worrying or being fixated on them will actually take attention away from learning and hurt your grade. The best thing is to get interested in the subject and that motivation will help you do good on any tests that come your way.
Everyone Finishes: Just like I expect everyone to learn the material well enough to get an A, I also expect everyone to finish the class. However, if you miss three classes in a row without contacting me, I will telephone you and send email to find out what’s going on. Note I can be pretty flexible when you have circumstances that warrant it. But if I can’t reach you, I will have to withdraw you from class. If you disappear a week before class ends, I may just give you a grade based on your work up to that time, but lowered because you missed the final.


Since Jan 6, 2005
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