Overwhelmed with Science Words

Have you felt the frustration of crazy science words?

Have you felt the frustration of crazy science words?… Needing to learn vocabulary because you need a certification, taking a quiz/exams in a course, and you keep mixing up adduction and abduction, or cerebellum and cerebrum, or anion and cation? 

Then you think, “I’ll just have to study harder! I’ll read the book pages again.”

But in reality, that adds to the time put into it… and added frustration and discouragement.

“Why can’t I remember it the first time I heard it when the teacher was talking?”

So what’s another strategy?   What tools do you need in your learning skill tool box?

Let your interesting, creative side of your brain get involved.

Here’s an example… with anion and cation, which are important concepts in chemistry.

First, the scientific definitions.

Anion - a negatively charged particle that has gained electrons in a chemical reaction, like Br-, Cl-, and O-2

Cation - a positively charged particle that has lost electrons in a chemical reaction, like Li+, Mg+2, Fe+3

I’ve found in my many years of teaching science these two are frequently confused. So let’s make it fun so they will forever be clear in our minds.


Looking at the word anion… I take a step back and ponder creatively - asking my creative juices to flow for a moment rather than bearing down and tell my brain THINK THINK THINK. Relax a little and I can see that A- N - ION will help me remember A Negative Ion… it’s right there in the word!


Now for Cation… CAT ion...hmmmm, well many people are cat-lovers… and cats sure do attract a lot of love and attention.   If you’re a cat lover, that’s going to be easy. Imagine the cats you’ve loved and how you are attracted to them, how they rub around your legs and even trail their tail around for a final swoop.


If you’re not a cat lover…. And you remember the horror of when a cat jumps at your leg and claws you through your jeans, you’ll at least remember this discussion which is all we need. We need a hook to help our brains file the information in a fun way so the whole brain gets involved when we see and hear the words.

Does this take effort? It does, for a brief moment. But overall, it sticks and it’s less effort than drilling drilling drilling and beating yourself up because you FORGOT the difference!


Let’s take another example… abduction and adduction.

Abduction - in physiology, the movement of a limb or other part away from the midline of the body, or from another part.

Adduction - the movement of a limb or other part toward the midline of the body.


I was working with a smart man starting a new career as an EMT, and I asked him to come up with a way to remember the difference. We stood up, moved our arms out to the side saying, “Abduction,”   and drew the arms into the core saying “Adduction.”


He quickly said, “When the arms are coming toward the body, it’s like it’s ADDing to the size of the body.”


“Brilliant.” That’s how it’s done. Since we were on our feet moving, talking through the material, just asking our brain to be clever and come up with a “hook,” a way to picture what’s going on, he found a clever way.


Another person might come up with something else.


The activity of coming up with the cleverness on our own cements these vocabulary words into our brains, and we all need to increase our vocab in our occupations as well as pass tests to accomplish our goals. Sometimes we near someone else’s clever hook, and go with it! Picture what’s happening in your mind, and your mind loves hanging onto pictures.


When we tutor and brain train, this is one of the skills we help you acquire. Giving you tools for your learning tool box… because we ALL want to be lifelong learners and hang on to what we learn.

Now go out and make a creative connection in your mind with some words that you keep mixing up.

We train you how to LISTEN and STUDY differently when in class so you get it right away, early in the game. No one wants to have to study and restudy and go through flash cards again and again and again.

Emily Lee