“Simple” is Relative

Simple

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.

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Emily’s face was a picture of frustration as she pulled books from her locker. Stuffing them into her book bag, she slammed the locker door and stomped toward the exit, making a point to look at no one. She didn’t want to talk.

“It’s simple,” Mr. Leitner had said. “You just have to know the Periodic Table, which we started memorizing months ago. Then you need the basic formulas, and the interactions of one substance with other substances.  It’s not that hard, people. This test covers five chapters, and we’ve gone over them all more than once.”

He seemed a bit irritated, as if he couldn’t understand why anyone was having any trouble in his “simple” chemistry course. It made Emily furious. She was usually an “A” student, getting a “B” only in gym–which she thought was totally unfair. Being graded on your ability to run fast or make a basket from the free-throw line had nothing to do with studying, and everything to do with natural ability! She was delighted that, as a senior, she didn’t have to take gym any more.

But chemistry?  That was another thing entirely. She had to have it to get her science credits in, and it was driving her crazy. Most of the symbols on the periodic table didn’t seem to have any connection to the element itself. Why, for instance, was antimony denoted as “sb”?  She had memorized it all, but to actually understand it didn’t seem to matter.

Emily liked to understand. She hated memorizing just to pass a test.

So she decided to do some research, probably losing valuable “memorize this” time, but she really needed to understand.

Her first search was “why is antimony identified as sb on the periodic table.” She found out that the word was based on two Greek words:

Origin of name: from the Greek words “anti + monos” meaning “not alone” (the origin of the symbol Sb comes from the Latin word “stibium“).

Okay, things were a bit more clear. Stibium, she learned, rarely showed up alone in nature. It was usually found in a compound.  Emily still had questions, but at least the “sb” made some sense.

The next day, Emily approached Mr. Leitner before class. “Mr. Leitner, I have so much trouble remembering the  letters for each element. They don’t always seem to be connected to the word itself.  Last night I did some research, and I discovered that the letters are based on Greek or Latin words.” She went on to tell him what she’d learned about antimony.
Mr. Leitner listened, but there was a quizzical expression on his face. “Emily, if it helps you, then learning all that is great. But it just seems easier to me to memorize the table. Simple.”
Emily sighed. “Mr. Leitner, it’s NOT simple if it makes no sense!  I need to understand what the words mean. Then, yes, it’s simple. I’ll always remember antimony, stibium, and sb.  I just wish you could teach it to us so that the words make sense!
Mr. Leitner paused, looking thoughtful. “Emily, I think you just created a job for yourself!”
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5 thoughts on ““Simple” is Relative

  1. Pingback: Simple – Daily Prompt – Ladyleemanila

  2. I’m like that, too. I can grasp things, rules, behaviours, etc, better and apply them a lot more effectively if someone explains the reason behind it.

    A friend told me once that as a teen she and her sisters wanted to wear the tight miniskirts fashionable at that time and their mom forbade it. When they wanted to know why, her mom answered, “If that’s the kind of skirts you wear that’s the kind of husband you’ll get.”

    Then her restriction made sense. Guys who pay so much attention to curves are going to be eyeing someone else’s when yours aren’t so hot anymore. Some of this old-fashioned wisdom could maybe help this new generation avoid some crushes and crashes.

  3. Chemistry didn’t make much sense to me in high school but I really loved it! And if you mix them together, it makes a completely different compound. I just thought of it as words mixing together – not elements, if that made sense.

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