Mathochism: Random mathy thoughts
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’re still working on ways to use the derivative to graph functions, and have moved on to the Mean Value Theorem. Both it and Rolle’s theorem seem very straightforward to me, but I am wary. Let’s see how I do with the nastier expressions, full of roots and absolute values.
At any rate, I’ve been having some random mathy (mathesque? math-related?) thoughts. I number them below:
1) Happy Ada Lovelace Day! I raise a derivative to her, and women in STEM everywhere, past and present. And that includes the amazing women I have already had the pleasure of interviewing for the book, as well as the ones I still hope to interview. And more than that, here’s to scholarly women in general. Sadly, we live in a world where a 14-year-old can be shot in the head for daring to demand an education. Her struggles make me grateful for the privilege of being allowed to study safely, and at all. May we fight for a global society where every woman (and man) gets that privilege.
2) I have managed to find several calculus texts that appear to feature more challenging problems. One is Stewart’s Calculus (thank you, Antonia!). Unfortunately, I have neither the cash ($246? Really?) nor the shelf-space to get my own copy, but happily, my college library had a battered specimen that is mine until Halloween. I also found a book called “Math for the frightened,” for some light reading. And another reader recommended “Overcoming Math Anxiety.” I was able to find that at my local public library. As a big public library supporter, this makes me happy.
3) A stupid question, perhaps, but WHY EXACTLY is a vertical line, i.e. x = 1, undefined? And does undefined automatically mean non-existent? And WHY is 0/0 undefined? I do grasp the logic, but never felt I got an adequate explanation. These are both concepts that have been handed down as gospel since Algebra, and I’ve just accepted them, kind of like I accepted that the Earth orbits the sun. And I’m not going to challenge either. I guess I was just wondering if someone could direct me to a proof of these postulates, because I don’t remember ever seeing one. And if these proofs are in any of the books I mentioned, or the books kind readers have recommended in the past, please forgive me. I’m still catching up on my book list.
4) I fear my conversations with my young classmate Phil about the calculus class probably being a weeder have bummed him out. When I talked to him yesterday, he was so forlorn. When I was his age, older people often bummed me out with their wise cynicism. And I’ve always tried not to be that older person, but being relentlessly upbeat can be annoying too. Maybe I’ll stick to talking to him about physics and philosophy.
All text copyrighted by A.K. Whitney, and cannot be used without permission.