## Mathochism: Changing focus

One woman’s attempt to revisit the math that plagued her in school. But can determination make up for 25 years of math neglect?

Last semester in Intermediate Algebra, I worried that the Brofessor’s sub-standard teaching would come back and hurt me. He wasted so much time, and left so many things out, I was sure I would pay for it in pre-calculus.

Well, as it turns out, I’ve started paying now. During the last class, Uchitel introduced us to parabolas. Now, we did cover parabolas with the Brofessor, but not conical parabolas, which are apparently vital to calculus. Knowing how to plot parabolas and find their focii (singular, focus) is also very important, and something the Brofessor couldn’t be bothered with.

Nor did we cover the equation for circles, which is every bit as critical. When I heard that, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. I do realize that I am going to have to go over my books and master these concepts before pre-calc.

This is really annoying, since I was hoping for a week or two to focus on other things before the true mathochism begins.

Oh well. Uchitel, in his usual way, gave us some fascinating (and relevant!) background on parabolas. Apparently, parabolas are the future when it comes to harvesting solar energy. Most solar cells, he explained, are flat, and thus need a lot of room. But they gather very little energy for electricity considering how much real estate they require. Some years ago, an Israeli company produced solar cells that have a parabolic form. Unfortunately, the company went out of business, but not before proving that it was an effective idea.

I’m not sure why this wasn’t explored before. Conic parabolas are used for many other gadgets, including satellite dishes and flashlights. Maybe you just need to think about things differently? I’ve spent the past semester thinking in two dimensions — whether it was circles, squares or lines. But just in the last class, I had to shift into 3D.

Apart from studying parabolas, we also learned about the locus. I’m not unfamiliar with the term, which comes from Latin. But I don’t remember it from math. At any rate, finding the locus for circles, lines and was no problem. But then, there was a problem none of us were able to solve.

Why? It involved cylinders. Once Uchitel gave us the answer to the problem, it was crystal clear — but only if you wrestled your brain into the next dimension.

I’ll have to remember that as I go on with my studies — sometimes all I need is to change my focus.

All text copyrighted by A.K. Whitney, and cannot be used without permission.

• ninjanurse

You’re way ahead of me. I count on my fingers.

• why are you calling him “Brofessor?” are you trying to imply that the teacher is black?

I can relate to your math woes though.

• akwhitney

No, he is not black. He is white. I meant bro as in frat-type, bro culture. Of my four instructors so far, two were black (Nigerian) and both were excellent. Please read further in the series.

• Man, you’re way ahead of me in terms of math, that’s for sure! Good luck 🙂