Mathochism: The limit does not exist

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 dove into calculus today, and started with limits.

Now, I am not one to reference movies often, at least not in my writing, but the math tournament scene in “Mean Girls,” where Cady says “The limit does not exist!” and it turns out to be the right answer, kept running through my brain in class.

And as it turned out, in quite a few of the limit examples, it did not exist. Or it existed on just one side. Or it was a problem mathematicians have named “pathological.” Ha! I love this. From now on, I am referring to all the brain-bending problems as pathological. But back to limits, we did sort of cover them in pre-calc, though we were approaching them from one side or another, and not combining them. Because of that, this new material didn’t feel too difficult. It felt more like fitting and tightening new concepts around the old.

Old concepts, however, have been haunting me. I got stuck on some absolute value problems in the review section. I couldn’t get past why |pi-4| translates as 4-pi. I leafed through several old textbooks, going so far as to pre-algebra, but was still befuddled. Finally, I sucked it up and asked the Calc Professor.

The answer was embarrassingly simple. Pi is roughly equal to 3.14. 3.14 is less than 4. Therefore, you put a negative sign in front of the equation and rewrite it. Voila! 4-pi. How could I possibly have forgotten that, yet remember complex trig identities?

I continue to be impressed by the Calc Professor’s organization, but doubt we are going to become buddies, the way I felt with Uchitel and the Summer Calc Professor. He is good about answering questions, but there is a veneer of a sneer under his answers. Now, this could be attributed to the fact that some people just have natural bitch-face, and come off as unpleasant even though they are lovely on the inside.

In fact, my family, particularly my mother, has often accused me of suffering from this condition. It’s funny, though, that with most friends, with sources, with my spouse and my in-laws, the bitch-face does not exist. Hmm. It’s a mystery.

At any rate, i refuse to let a sneer discourage me from asking questions. And I got most of the limit problems we studied right, and was on the right track with the others. Hopefully, this is a good sign that my personal calculus limit may not exist.

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 Aug. 21.