Memorization is NOT a dirty word
Do you mix up terms like sulfide and sulfite? Symbols like Mn and Mg? Is it hard for you to remember how many milligrams are in a gram? Can you keep straight the charges on a proton, neutron and electron?
If you have trouble with any of these, relax. It is quite normal to forget. However, given that forgetting is a natural part of learning, you need to build in some strategies to remember the information that you need to suceed in your chemistry course.
Students and faculty alike may speak ill of memorization, saying that they believe one should understand, not memorize chemistry. Understanding is important. However, so is memorization. Here's why:
One final thought. The important thing in chemistry is to know when to memorize something and when NOT to.
For example, it is handy to have memorized the position of Na (sodium) on the periodic table so that each time you need to find it, you don't have to hunt all over the chart for it. However, it is not necessary to memorize either its atomic number (11) or its average atomic mass (22.9898). Be strategic in what you memorize and what you don't.
Once you memorize something, the information is instantly available to you. You don't have to waste time searching for it each time you need it. Think how hard it would be if you had to look up every phone number you dialed, without having some key ones memorized. Similarly, you don't want to be looking up the different numbers of carbon atoms in methane, ethane, propane and butane every time you use these.
- Freedom to think
Once you have memorized something, you are free to use your brain space for something else. Think how tangled your thoughts would be if you tried to compute something without knowing the basic math facts. You'd never be free to sit back and think about what the problem is about. Similarly, you can't think about chemical equations and what they mean if all your brain space is taken up by trying to decipher the chemical symbols, subscripts and coefficients that they contain.
- Smooth sailing
Once you memorize something, you don't have to mentally fumble around trying to remember it. Think how much more smoothly a conversation goes when you know a person's name and aren't trying to remember it while you are talking to the person. Similarly, your ability to talk to your instructor and peers goes more smoothly if you don't fumble when you speak the language of chemistry.
Enjoy chemistry? That's right. At the very least, you can probably find some part of chemistry to enjoy.
Consider the alternative: a course with no fun and nothing to brighten your day, ... or a course where you commit all that time and energy and you get little or nothing in return. A good strategy, therefore, is to find something that you like about chemistry (or else to switch to a different field or major).
It may be a particular topic you will enjoy. It may be an "ah ha!" that will make you smile. It may be the chemical reaction demonstrated in lecture that caught you by surprise. It may be the friendships that you form working with others in the laboratory. It may be the sense of accomplishment you feel. If all else fails, it may even be the fact that you are one day closer to the end of the semester.
The point is, there must be something. Find it! You are likely to do your best when there is something enjoyable involved.