by Ivan Couture; Marie-Ève Lacombe-Harvey; Geneviève Levasseur-Thériault Book
Quantum Chemistry - Quebec's Only English High School Chem Book   (2013-01-27)
It is unfortunate that Quantum Chemistry by Ivan Couture et al., the only approved chemistry textbook for the English education sector in Quebec, cannot be given a rating better than "fair".
Aside from the weak grammar and numerous typos, there are many errors (mainly in transcription) that make the text and the calculations difficult to follow. It is clear that the book was produced in haste and that the editing and proofreading were second-rate.
Admittedly, the grammatical errors are subtle and perhaps due to the fact that the textbook is a translation from the French version. However, when in many parts of the book the writing lacks cohesion, or when through the thought process of a paragraph there is change in subject, or when simple words are misused (“inversely” instead of “conversely”) the errors, subtle though they may be, do lead to confusion. Moreover, the words “never” and “everything” are used with such wanton disregard for the true essence of the terms that the text also loses credibility as a respectable scientific tome. I must say that overall the writing is puerile and the style lacks refinement and polish. It takes a language master to detect and correct weak writing; and unfortunately Cheneliere’s editors seem to have missed the flaws in their editing of Quantum Chemistry.
There is some attempt at the proper use of units and variables when doing sample calculations, though there are inconsistencies in this area. Sometimes the authors use the appropriate conventional technique of listing the variables and the unknown, and applying the properly manipulated formula to solve the problem. Sometimes they use factor labeling (dimensional analysis), and yet at other times they choose to use cross-multiplication. It is not a bad idea to show students various methods of problem solving, but I do believe that at this advanced point in their education, chemistry students should be discouraged from using cross-multiplication. Moreover, in their use of cross-multiplication the authors resort to the poor practice of simply using a question mark (?) for the unknown variable in lieu of the actual symbol of the variable.
The book is also replete with errors in transcription. For example, in one problem the specific heat capacity of water is given as 4.19 J/g°C in the list of variables, but in the problem solving step it is plugged in as 4.184 J/g°C. Sometimes the value is mistakenly written as 4.84 leaving the reader puzzling over where this number came from. In another example SATP values are erroneously substituted for STP values. Needless to say, the calculations become hard to follow when the plugged-in values do not match the given values. Other instances of transcription error make the students (and the teacher!) doubt their knowledge. In one case a reaction is described as exothermic whereas the accompanying equation suggests that it is endothermic.
On the positive side, Quantum Chemistry by Ivan Couture et al. is a made-for-Quebec textbook, and perhaps we, in the English sector, should be grateful that we even have a textbook. Could it have been better? Absolutely! With a bit of extra input, by choosing language experts to do the translation and editing, and by spending more time on proofreading, Cheneliere could have produced a book that might have been a source of great pride and a delight to use.
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