Mathochism: The final chapter

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

We had our last review for pre-calculus, and I am now preparing my study plan for the final. Going over the tests, and seeing where I went wrong, was very helpful. Most of my mistakes were minor, such as not remembering that bounds require parentheses instead of brackets, or that cosine in the fourth quadrant is positive, or that a sine graph with a 4 pi period has at least one oscillation.

Then there were the sloppy mistakes, such as not erasing a bubble on the Scantron enough, or just filling in the wrong bubble because I was tired. There was nothing truly befuddling there, and the Youthful Professor explained the few problems with which I had the most trouble.

Still, there’s a lot of material to cover, and I need to be systematic, not only going over the stuff I found hard but also the stuff I didn’t struggle with, lest I get complacent. I have six days to do it, which sounds longer than it is.

In the meantime, I’ve signed up for Calculus. The Summer Professor’s class was full before my enrollment date, which is not surprising. I overheard my classmates discussing professors earlier this week, laying out their pros and cons as mercilessly as bookies. I made mental notes on the ones they warned against. The Summer Professor was the only one who was universally praised.

The one I finally settled on is a mixed case. Reviews on ratemyprofessors vary between hatred and love. Apparently, his tests are difficult. But his lectures are clear. There is no mention of him shirking his duties, or treating students condescendingly.

I put my journalist hat on and found him on the Web. He is a bit older than I am, and his educational credentials are from well-respected universities. He also appears to support women in math. Of course, none of this means he will be a good teacher. But sometimes, establishing rapport with a teacher means they are more invested in making sure you learn and do well. It becomes a pride thing.

I guess we’ll see.

To hedge my bets, I am planning to watch a DVD course on Calculus over the holidays. My spouse, who has no time to actually enroll at colleges, has been addicted to a company that tapes lectures from stars in academia and sells them in box sets. My spouse watches these lectures every morning as he works out, and has to date studied everything from quantum physics to religion to philosophy to geology, neurobiology and psychology. And, of course, Calculus.

It seems like a good strategy as I prepare for the final chapter of Mathochism.

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

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