Mathochism: An hour of your life

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 had our third exam today.

And… blergh. I may have actually done worse than the last two. I’m still far from 100 percent health wise, and am still stuffy and achy and exhausted. Worse, the aches are really affecting my sleeping patterns, so I’m on a rest deficit.

Still, I tried to study as much as possible. I went over rectilinear motion, Newton’s method (which is not fun when you’re not allowed a calculator), the mean value and Rolle’s theorems.

I graphed a lot of stuff, and worked on my derivation time. Optimization problems were fun as long as they involved boxes and fences and raingutters and such (in spite of being severely near-sighted and astigmatic, I’ve always had good spatial orientation, and can usually eyeball proportions and distances accurately), but my eyes glazed over when they involved men rowing or cars passing each other.

I went into the exam with the lowest expectations possible.
 “It doesn’t matter if you fail, that doesn’t mean you haven’t learned, or can’t learn,” I told myself while brushing my teeth.
 “It’s an hour of your life. It will be over soon, and then you can feel better again,” I told myself as I organized my bag.
 “Don’t panic,” I cautioned myself as I sat waiting for the exam to begin.

Happily, the optimization problem was of the box variety. Unhappily, even though I set it up right, I multiplied it wrong, which meant I derived it wrong. Curses!!!

The professor threw us a nasty curve on one problem (there were only five total, in several parts, so once again, the odds of succeeding were against us). We had to guess what an original graph looked like from the graph of its derivative. To my knowledge, we have not done this in class, and none of the homework touched on this.

I did my best, relying on the first and second derivative tests to get some idea of what I had to do. But I am far from confident that I did it right enough for the professor’s precise standards.

We also had to graph a trig function, well, a combo polynomial trig function (goddess forbid it be something straightforward). I graphed it on the computer when I got home, and I was close, though that graph was wigglier.

Blergh again.

“I feel so stupid,” I told my husband after the test. “Why can’t I prove that I’ve learned this successfully?”

And it’s just 16 weeks of my life. After that, I can feel better again.

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

Note: Mathochism runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Please check out my next installment on Jan. 15.