Mathochism: Looking back to go forward
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?
I find myself looking backward to see if I can go forward. I find myself going back to the days of pre-algebra with the Dapper Professor, when he explained to me that negative 2^2 is not 4, but -4, because “the exponent belongs to the base.” I remembered that when I was deriving 1/x, as well as the Dour Professor’s assertion that 1/x was another way to write x^-1.
I put their advice to use, and using the power rule, derived 1/x to -1/x^2. I almost put the negative sign on the bottom. But the exponent belongs to the base!
When deriving the square root of x + 4, and then graphing it, I remembered the Brofessor’s advice on figuring out what such equations look like. A root function looks like a parabola turned on its side, except the bottom part of it has been pulled off. And square root of x + 4 means that half parabola is moved four points to the left.
As I confront problems that bewilder me, I try to remember the Summer Pre-Calc Professor’s advice to first figure out what kind of problem I’m dealing with, then set up a strategy to solve it. I also try to remember Uchitel’s exuberant “You have to have confidence!” and “You will learn it if you practice!”
Looking back, I DID learn a lot. Those As and Bs were not an anomaly. But why is that chorus of positive voices being drowned out as I contemplate going forward? And why is it not stronger than one soft male voice saying, in dry tones: “If you got a D or F on this test, then this class may not be for you. There are too many major problems to overcome.”
All text copyrighted by A.K. Whitney, and cannot be used without permission.