Mathochism: For the record

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

Under the compass of Damocles Back when I was working full-time in the newsroom, we occasionally had to print corrections. These corrections always went under the heading “For the record”.

I always prided myself on my low correction rate (amazingly low, considering there were times when I filed five stories a day), and felt embarrassed when I had to do it. But it had to be done.

Therefore, I am embarrassed to report I need to do a correction. We got our exams back today, and it turns out that the implicit differentiation/linear approximation problem I thought was unsolvable was actually solvable. And the reason for that was because I misapplied a y. That misapplied y made all the difference!

Yep, those things are fiddly as hell.

I owe the calc prof an apology for accusing her of bad faith on this blog (even as I take care to keep her anonymous), and I can’t tell you how happy I am to make that apology. I really hated the idea that I had misread her commitment to her students.

Okay, correction filed.

Now, for better news: I passed the exam!

True, I scraped by, but a scrape at this point is progress. Once again, the mistakes I made were a combination of nervousness, being rushed for time, and feeling unprepared by the problem sets in the book. For example, we had two problems where we had to take limits of trig functions. There were very few such problems in the homework, and half of those were even problems, so I couldn’t check myself. If it hadn’t been for the fact that I managed to find a website full of easy to downright hard examples, I would have been lost.

Well, onward. We’ve moved on to Rolle’s theorem. Like Blaise Pascal, Michel Rolle gets credit for something likely invented long before by Asian mathematicians (those Frenchmen are wily, I tell ya!). But I must admit this theorem is lovely in its simplicity.

Okay, I must go do homework. Those theorems won’t apply themselves.

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

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