Monthly Archives: March 2012

Mathochism: When the book isn’t enough

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

I’ve never been able to learn math just by reading a book. Unlike literature, or art, or science, I’ve always needed a teacher to help me grasp even the simplest techniques.

Still, I’ve connected with some books more than others. Last semester in pre-calculus, I disliked the book so much that I ignored it, relying on it solely for homework problems, getting my theory from the professor and other texts, including the much clearer pre-calc book from the dropped summer course.

When I saw that my calculus book was written by the same guy who wrote the fall pre-calc book, my heart sank. But I wanted to give it a chance. Read more

Mathochism: A full-time job

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

It’s official: I’m obsessed with Calculus.

Over the last few days, I have stayed up until 1 a.m. puzzling over problems. Even when I finally crawl into bed with my snoring spouse, I can’t sleep, because I can’t figure out why a function has a cusp just from a graph. Or why some graphs have vertical tangent lines, while some don’t.

Why???

In previous classes, I went to lectures, then studied at home. Now, I’m making a standing date with the Calc Prof at his office hours before class. I have plans to make one non-class day a Calc day, going to one seminar in the morning, lunch, then doing work in the smelly math lab (if I’m over-optimistic and it’s a nice day, I may work out at the college’s athletic center), then going to a second seminar, this one run by the Calc Prof.

Journalism career? What journalism career? Marriage maintenance? Uh, sure — what? Cleaning the house or running errands? BWAHAHAHA. I’ve got stuff to derive! Theorems to memorize!

Our second test is little over a week away, and I am determined to pass it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go. All this blogging is keeping me from learning how to apply the chain rule.

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

Mathochism: Looking back to go forward

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

It’s been a tough week, confidence-wise.

Even with the indignant comments about the Calc Professor and the “you go, A.K.!” sentiments expressed by friends and well-wishers in the cyber and real worlds, even with my own unending stubbornness, I wonder if I haven’t finally hit that proverbial wall.

Am I able to learn calculus? Or am I just kidding myself?

Is my feeling that I understand limits and derivatives just an illusion? Even with hard work on homework, and study sessions, and professor pestering, will that illusion be exploded on the next test?

And does that mean I never really learned all the material I studied in the last three years? Read more

Mathochism: Spectacular failures

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 got our tests back today. I got a 33. In case I should wonder what that translated to, the Calc Professor kindly wrote that 33 = F.

This didn’t come as a shock. I knew I had failed. Nor did it really come as a shock to hear that, out of 45 students, no one got an A. Two people got Bs. The rest of us got Cs, Ds and Fs.

I suspect fewer people got Cs than Ds and Fs, at least judging from the moans and groans at break.

The most disheartening part was the Calc Professor’s statement that students who got Ds or Fs should drop the course, because they clearly had “major” problems and would never do well. Read more

Mathochism: It’s the little things

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

The test is Wednesday, and I’m trying not to let it freak me out.

So far, the lectures have been comprehensible, and the material feels strangely intuitive. I’ve been mostly in the math zone with homework, getting most problems right right away. However, I am perplexed by the fact that, as I ascend into higher, more abstract math, I get derailed by the basics.

For example — just a week or so ago, I was befuddled by the simplest absolute value problems. This week, I suddenly forgot how to add. I also often overlook negative signs, which changes the answer completely.

Thankfully, we have moved past decimals. Goodness knows what horrors I would wreak by placing that tiny dot in the wrong place! Read more