math Used to be Fun

Posted on April 28, 2011

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This may come as a shock to some people – because I’m currently in the first math class I’ve taken since the horrors of Calculus nearly 6 years ago – but math used to be fun for me. Not only did I like math, but I really did do it for fun. When I was young(er),  and I learned how to do long division, I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. It was especially amazing since I could make up problems on my own with strings of random numbers as long as would fit on whatever surface I had to write on. My favorite was our trusty white-board. I would (laugh if you want, don’t forget I did pass Calculus) sit for hours and write those strings of numbers and teach my audience of stuffed-animal students what remainders were and how to carry the digits and cram as many shortcuts and brilliant mental math pieces onto that 2′ x 3′ board.

My freshman year of college I let a girl stay in my room while I was out of town because there was a horde of bees in her room or the A/C didn’t work, I don’t recall the exact problem. But Nicole, who later became a great friend of mine, showed me her yearbook from the year that she stayed in my room, when we didn’t really know each other. There were math symbols underneath my picture. I was in Calculus when she stayed in my room, and I was struggling with that class something awful. I printed out and pasted all over my wall formulas, theorems, the definition of a limit (which I’m almost horribly sad that I don’t remember, considering how many times I recited it and practiced it that semester), and other Calculus related math stuffs. She thought that I just really really liked math. Well, it’s not entirely true that I don’t. I just didn’t at the time. I cried because of that class, and often. I went to every math lab that was offered, and remember that only 4 times that semester did it take me less than 2 hours to complete the assigned homework.

I remember one night Jane coming into my room to return some notes she had borrowed. I woke up with white-board marker on my face because I had been on the floor writing and re-writing formulas and had fallen asleep with my face on the board and my formulas at somewhere close to the ungodly hour of 4 am before the quiz the next morning.

All that to say, I’m not taking Calculus again – I knew better than that. To take Calculus II would have been mathematical suicide. Instead, I signed up for Discrete Math. Logic, it says. I think, “I’m a decently logical person. How hard can it be?” You should laugh at me. Hard. Because it’s very hard, especially when you don’t have a professor who takes any initiative to teach. I do understand that it’s an online class, but even my world music professor for my online class created video lectures for the class so that we were taught ideas. It wasn’t even close to necessary for world music. For math, that’s very necessary. Most math books are not written so that they are a teacher – they are intended to supplement a teacher’s…um…teaching! Crazy concept, but this is how I, and most people I know, understand it to be. Needless to say, I may very well fail my first math class ever, or at least come ridiculously close, because unlike Calculus when I was struggling and flailing about like a fish out of water, I at least had real people who could help me, and now I have classmates that are literally on the other side of the country, and a professor who doesn’t seem to understand the things I don’t understand, still speaks to me in the math jargon of the textbook (which, had I understood any of that, I doubt I’d need his help in the first place), and is hardly willing to offer time and tutoring for the failings of my discrete math abilities.

Wish me luck. I’m banking on my little brother’s engineering education and his math advice that has made me feel slightly less doomed to keep me from a total meltdown.

I have found this brilliant Jew of a man online though, who offers an entire video course for Discrete Math. I haven’t been able to watch all the videos, but his teaching is a breath of fresh air for my lack of teaching in my current class. If you have any interest, or any need for such a video, go here and then thank the man somehow for his generous donation to scholastic flops like myself everywhere.

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