Mathochism: Hitting the test wall
One woman’s attempt to revisit the math that plagued her in school. But can determination make up for 25 years of math neglect?
On Thursday, my spouse and I went away for a long weekend. We drove to a lovely inn in a small town by the ocean.
All my calculus books went with me, and while my husband was reading a book by the fire, or at the beach, I was sitting near him boning up on limits and derivatives.
I spent about 16 hours total studying. I now know how to spot an indeterminate form, and why a limit at negative infinity makes a huge difference over a positive one when dealing with, say 5 + √x+1. I know how to prove the power rule, product rules and quotient rules.
I spent a lot of time deriving polynomials, root functions and trigonometric functions.
We got back last night, and I spent the morning studying at the college.
Then, in class, we had a quiz. Now, a quiz doesn’t have as much weight as an exam, but still. I spent 16 hours studying on vacation, plus another three this morning. For the arithmetically inclined, that’s 19 hours total.
It still wasn’t enough. I definitely failed today’s quiz. We were asked to prove that 1-cosx/x equals zero. My brain froze. I should have just used the conjugate, but I forgot.
We were asked to find a tangent line for 1 + 2cosx with x at π. I froze again. I completely forgot what I should be doing, and scribbled something weird.
And then there was taking the limit of x + 10/√(x+10)² as x goes to -10. I panicked again. Was this another absolute value in disguise? And if it was, doesn’t the + make a difference? I can’t see either way how this limit can exist.
At this point, I feel like I’m beating my head against a wall. Why can’t I get this? Why can I spend hours solving problems correctly, then keep failing test after test?
It feels like such a waste of time. Maybe it’s time to drop this and walk away. Maybe it’s time to just acknowledge that, when it comes to math, I can handle it up to pre-calculus. That is my wall.
It’s too bad, though, because as I was studying this weekend, I really felt like I was grasping most of this. Now, I realize that’s just not true.
All text copyrighted by A.K. Whitney, and cannot be used without permission.