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Old 02-21-2007, 02:51 PM   #1
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Default got into an argument today - with my BIO prof.

backstory:

took a test last Biology class period. got an 83% on it. 40 questions.

story:
heres the question i got upset about.

Hydrogen differs from Helium in that:
a. Hydrogen is an atom and helium is not.
b. Hydrogen has no neutrons whereas helium has two.
c. Hydrogen has no electrons while helium has two.
d. None of the above answers are correct.

i answered: d. got it back today and the correct answer [according to him] was b. so i got it wrong. so i got mad. approached him after class and said something similar to the following:
Quote:
Me: How does it logically follow that hydrogen has no neutrons, from the question? Deuterium has one, Tritium has two.
Him: The typical hydrogen atom has none. Therefore B was the best answer.
Me: The difference between hydrogen and helium, by definition, is one proton. By saying that hydrogen and helium differ by neutrons, you're basically saying that Tritium and Deuterium should be next to hydrogen on the periodic table. You can't just assume that your sample is pure Hydrogen-1 isotope.
Him: But you do.
Me: You can't. the question doesnt say anything about the hydrogen being enriched or the atomic weight of the hydrogen in question. Without that, you have to assume that theres a small percentage of deuterium and tritium -- both of which ARE hydrogen and HAVE neutrons. Page 19 of the book says so, if you need a reference.
thats the gist. he kept saying that over and over trying to make me understand his point, and i kept saying that you cant assume the hydrogen was pure. we changed the wording, but thats what it amounted to, for roughly 3 minutes. then i said something to the effect of "thats asinine." to which he responded "no. B is the correct answer." so i walked back to my seat and picked up my stuff and got ready to go. while i did this, he said "write up what you just said, ill send it to the author of the book and ill send it to the dean. that fair?" and my response was something to the effect of "no. i dont care about the dean and i dont care about the author of the book; im here for a grade and you control that. i want my 2 1/2 points." and then i left.

so, how wrong was i?
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Old 02-21-2007, 02:55 PM   #2
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None. Your teacher sucks.
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Old 02-21-2007, 02:56 PM   #3
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I think your argument is just.
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Old 02-21-2007, 03:18 PM   #4
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Your in the right. I definetly have to agree that D was the suitable answer.
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Old 02-21-2007, 04:08 PM   #5
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I wouldn’t be so quick to condemn the perfesser. If there was a knock at your door, and when you answered you discovered it was an atom with one proton and one electron you’d likely say “Come in, Mr. Hydrogen.”. Right? Suppose there was another knock and this time it was an atom with two lovely neutrons hanging below it’* proton. Would you say “Come in, Mr. Hydrogen.”, or would you say “Come in Mr. Tritium.”? Probably the latter, even though Tritium is an isotope of Hydrogen. The question asks the difference between Hydrogen and Helium, not any of their inbred relatives. From that angle, you read too much into the question. While there may be additional correct answers, B is, indeed, a correct statement. Therefore the statement D makes, none of the above are correct, is false. The perfesser’* argument is valid.

Having said that, you’re statement also holds water. Isotopes of Hydrogen are still Hydrogen, only with more RPOs, so to speak – like SE, SSE, SLE, SSEi. All Bonnevilles, different options. The question didn't say not to included them.

I think the right course of action is to throw the question out because it should be reworded to eliminate some ambiguity, or the answers should be modified to remove the catch all in D. The ambiguity lies in the fact that B could just as likely be a wrong answer if the prof intended for you to assume isotopes but you took the question at face value. Then your argument against the question would have been “But you didn’t SAY assume isotopes.”. In the case of this question, there appears to be no black & white answer.

I think you should go back to your perfesser and DEMAND that the next test be essay questions instead of multiple guess so you can explain your answers and increase your chances of a better grade. You’d have your 2 ½ points then.
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Old 02-21-2007, 05:12 PM   #6
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I could see trying to argue this if it made a difference in your grade, say between a pass/fail or even just a letter grade. The prof. might give you the points for effort. But you got an 83%, and that is decent. Don't worry about it.

You could argue that B and D are both partialy correct answers, but you are on the picky (reading into the question a lot) side of the argument. If you take the question at face value it says Hydrogen, not Tritium or Deuterium in specific. You'd have to figure out what exists more often: the pure Hydrogn or the isotopes; and then argue which answer is "better".
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Old 02-21-2007, 05:25 PM   #7
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I've been in the same perdiciment...
with my Econ professer last year, and it wasn't just one question it was like half of his exams.
The thing that made it so i couldn't do anything about it was the one line: "the best answer" even if there were two answers that worked you had to answer the one that he thought worked the best.
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Old 02-21-2007, 08:47 PM   #8
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the fact that its 2.5 points on one exam [and the first exam, at that], means im going to drop it. its not worth it to go further.

but my complaint isnt so much the question. i understand how the answer given can be considered correct [even if i disagree]. my complaint is largely that when i brought it to his attention, he didnt say anything like "the answer i was looking for was B, because in Biology we assume the most likely instance" or something like that. he just flat out refused to even consider that there was a reason D was the best answer. he just told me "no. B was the right answer." and he ignored my point completely that either you have to consider Tritium and Deuterium as hydrogen, or you have to tell the student to rule them out.

as a future educator, this sort of thing gets under my skin. the question was worded in such a way to be ambiguous, not to test the knowledge. it should have been evident from my complaint that i KNEW the answer and i KNEW about hydrogen/tritium/deuterium/helium. if i was in his shoes, theres no question that i would give the 2.5 points back. in lieu of that, i would apologise for the ambiguity and try to eliminate it in the future.
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Old 02-22-2007, 01:10 AM   #9
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If that was a chemistry or physics class, it would be considered a trick question. The protium isotope (1H) makes up 99.9% of naturally occurring instances of hydrogen. But then again, it is the least naturally ocurring gas because it is lighter than other gases and can "escape" gravity more easily.

Deuterium (2H) another stable isotope of hydrogen has its own significance. If we used molecular protium, instead of deutrium, to cool reactor rods, all of our Bonnevilles would be glowing in the dark. What if engineers said 'Hey, heavy water is too expensive to produce, let'* get a garden hose and fill bays with township water. It has hydrogen it , so it must work."

Your professor'* definition of hydrogen is incomplete, yours is by Chemistry/Physics standards correct.

If you want to have him run you out of the class, Ask him if he plays horseshoes, where close is good enough.

Actually I think he should have given you the points. But just you, because you argued the point.
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Old 02-22-2007, 01:52 AM   #10
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I'm totally with CharlieMax here. Your prof should give you the points, but only you, because you argued the point, and argued it correctly.

At the same time, you wouldn't want to say that H1, H2 and H3 are all the same thing. They obviously have some very unique properties among them.

When I read the questions cold, without reading further, I immediately said "B, duh." H1 *does* differ from He in that H1 has no neutrons and He has two, but the question said "Hydrogen" and didn't specify H1. While it is easy to presume H1, and answer B correctly, there is the corner-case of H2 and H3 that make B incorrect.

I'd like to know what grade you are in. Is this a college-level course?

The best prof I ever had, told us on day one "There is such thing is a bad test question. If you can ever convincingly argue a question, I will give you the points for it. So don't be afraid to ask if you think you have a good argument." -I attended that prof'* retirement dinner and told him in person that with that statement, he became my all-time most-respected professor ever. Your prof does not seem to be so enlightened, and seems to have no interest in fostering thinking in his students. This is sad. To him, the answer is whatever the solution book says the answer is, and there exists no possibility for a corner case. I have no problem labelling your professor as a close-minded twit.

I like that your professor is was willing to seek the opinion of the author of the book and willing to send it to the dean. However, you argued the point about H2 and H3 already, either your professor understands the concept of H2 and H3 or he does not, it seems silly that he'd have to consult the author of the book to get an answer on whether H2 and H3 are Hydrogen or not. I question the teaching credentials of your professor.

But on that note, I would have taken him up on the offer. Your saying that you're there for the grade only, implies that your interest in thinking is about as low as your professor'* interest in fostering any of it in his students. But at least you demonstrated that you have the capacity to do so, whereas your professor did not.

The question, as worded, is flat-out ambiguous. It is fairly evident that the question'* author intended to mean H1, and did not take into consideration the possibility of H2 and H3. The question could be worded better to eliminate the ambiguity. It could have specified pure Hydrogen with molecular mass of 1.00794 g/mol, for instance. If I were your professor, I would have given you the points for effectively arguing your answer. There is such a thing as a bad test question, and this is a good example.
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