Mathochism: Fun with infinity

One woman’s attempt to revisit the math that plagued her in school. But can determination make up for 25 years of math neglect?
Back when I was in geometry, I dreaded proofs. They seemed so fiddly, so obvious, so tedious. Yes, the side opposite the largest angle of a triangle is the longest side. But must this be expressed in 10 different steps?

Calculus proofs are a different story — at least so far. There are if … then statements, but less fiddliness. They feel more straightforward. I hope that continues!

Today, we covered infinite limits, or rather, limits that don’t exist due to infinity. Once again, this felt intuitive. After all, infinity has no limit.

I like the concept of infinity. It’s very mystical. I picture it as a highway going off into the horizon, forever and ever. I also see it in Hubble photos of space — not the nebula ones, but the ones of the hundreds and hundreds of galaxies floating next to each other. Read more

Mathochism: Calculus sandwich

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

Anyone who has been around the blogosphere has likely noticed that women who blog are often bullied with the phrase “go make me a sandwich” (or, more often, a “sammich” because sandwich is too hard to say, or spell, or something). As in, women don’t belong on the Internet, with their annoying thoughts and opinions, they should be making sandwiches for the dudes on the Internet instead.

Yeah — no. But I might be persuaded to make a sandwich of the math variety.

Today, we continued to study limits, and went over the properties of limits. As long as they exist, you can add them, subtract them, multiply them and divide them. You can also square them, cube them, and take their roots. Read more

Mathochism: The limit does not exist

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 dove into calculus today, and started with limits.

Now, I am not one to reference movies often, at least not in my writing, but the math tournament scene in “Mean Girls,” where Cady says “The limit does not exist!” and it turns out to be the right answer, kept running through my brain in class.

And as it turned out, in quite a few of the limit examples, it did not exist. Or it existed on just one side. Or it was a problem mathematicians have named “pathological.” Ha! I love this. From now on, I am referring to all the brain-bending problems as pathological.

Mathochism: Brain nudge

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

When taking pre-calculus, we were told that that would be the last course that reviewed any of the old material. In other words, if we hadn’t learned WTF absolute value was, we were absolutely effed.

This appears to have been a lie. My first week in calculus (I’ve been a calculus student for a week now. Yay!) was all about intermediate algebra and trigonometry. The actual calculus begins next week (Eek?).

I’m not complaining, mind you. It’s barely been two months, but my brain needed a nudge on things like identifying zeroes in a root function and trig identities such as 1 + tan^2x = sec^2x. I hadn’t forgotten, exactly, but these concepts were likely obscured by holiday food and “Ghost Hunters” marathons. Read more

Mathochism: In college at last!

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

Calculus started today, and it’s official: I’m no longer a high school student.

Wow, that only took 23 years!

True, high schools offer calculus. They even did in my day. But most universities don’t require calculus from applicants, and offer it as their baby math class, demanding it both from prospective majors (you can opt out with AP) and everyone else.

So here I am.

My newest professor — I may just call him the Calc Professor, unless inspiration strikes — won my heart right away by announcing that he was accepting no crashers. No, not even if they were in the waiting pools set up this semester by the math department to avoid classes and corridors crammed with hopefuls. (I wonder if the Fire Department got on their case. They certainly should have.) Read more