fotobits - 03 July 2009 08:11 PM

I scored a 99 on the written portion, 96 on reading, and 28 on math. So I’m placing out of freshman comp and taking introductory algebra. I plan to get an associate degree in Spanish and take one math course each semester until I hit a brick wall. If I can tear down that wall I’ll pursue a degree in Earth and Planetary Sciences, which will require biology, chemistry, physics and calculus. If I run into a mathematical brick wall I’ll pursue a degree in American Studies with a concentration in Environment, Science and Technology.

Congratulations on your decision and good scores, fotobits!

Keep moving forward, ever forward!

Important:Make sure that your professors are helpful to you by answering

your questions about the course work. If they are not, then maybe

another school has professors who are helpful.

Ugh fotobits, you break my heart when you talk about a brick wall

pursuing math! You sound like another victim of the bad way that

math is taught in K-12, sadly that is true for the first couple of

years of college too.

Math should be the simplest subject though, because the elementary

mathematics is so logical and the proofs are right there in class.

What could be easier, right?

Don’t let calculus scare you, it is not a scary subject either.

Everybody learned to calculate the area of a rectangle as length

× height, that’s easy. But your teachers skipped telling you

how to calculate the areas of those funny curves (parabolas,

sines, etc.). At its core, integration is a technique to

calculate the area underneath a function (such as those curves).

Integration is one of the techniques in calculus.

Integration: Imagine approximating the area under a curve

with a group of slim tall rectangles which reach down to the

horizontal axis and up to the curve. The more slim that the

rectangles are then the more precise the approximation will be.

Calculating thousands of these rectangles underneath the curve

would give a quite precise result but is laborious; it turns

out that after thousands of years of mathematical proofs using

this and other techniques there have been discovered some simple

patterns in how you can convert (integrate) a formula to arrive

at the same result as the rectangle technique. It turns out that

these patterns are a faster and more precise technique, than the

labor of calculating thousands of rectangles. The resulting

area is exact when you use the modern conversions rather than

the ancient laborious rectangle technique. Calculus class teaches

you the modern conversions of integration.

There are more techniques and possibilities than just integration,

but that is at the heart of the matter. That’s not scary is it?

This is some of the work that Archamedes, Sir Issac Newton, and

Leibniz did, at the heart of their great genius and achievement,

and you can learn that genius too! Don’t you want to know?

As a simple example integration:

dy = ∫(x^2)dx = (x^3)/3 + C

1. Surround the formula with Leibniz’ notation (the differential

of y and x; also the elongated S), indicating that we intend

to integrate.

2. Increment the exponent of x.

3. Copy that exponent downward, placing it as a denominator of x.

4. Add the constant of integration (C).

5. Remove Leibniz’ notation once we write the rightmost side of

the equation, we are done integrating.

The impact that calculus has had on our daily lives is huge!

It is such a large part the basis of the great technological boon

that we live in. And its future potential is unlimited!

But Newton was not really a mathematician, he was more of an

alchemist (the turning lead to gold stuff), and so the math was

just a tool to him, one that he took farther than anyone else

had before. **That playful curious creativity should be at the **

heart of all math classes. He wanted to know the

areas (slopes and other qualities) about objects flying through

the air and other physics. Mathematics was the tool to get him

to his answers, with precision. So, if you pursue physics, or

engineering, they teach you to learn mathematics as a tool to solve

real world problems, which is the appropriate way for many to learn

mathematics and the way that everyone is complaining about missing.

There are people who care only about pure mathematics without

application, they are the people who pursue a Ph.d. in mathematics.

But most of us do not do that.

Since most of us don’t want to have a Ph.d. in mathematics, that

creates a conflict that is at the heart of all math classes in the

USA, and at the heart of the reason why people complain about math.

Most people don’t see the great science of math as an end to

itself, instead they want to see it applied to real world problems.

This is part of what scientists and engineers do in their work.

Math is **NOT** about endless repetition and memorization, but is really

about creative expression, experimentation, playful discovery, and

**precise analysis**. It is the language of science and engineering.

Of course, if you want to pursue the spoken languages, then they

don’t seem to want to do any math at the undergraduate level,

so you won’t be given any exposure to this topic if you prefer.

Language is a fine subject, I just think that people should be

aware of their options.

tcm92678 - 05 July 2009 05:39 AM

Great decision fotobits!... but I am currently halfway thru my semester with a 3.9GPA and I already have 5 classes under my belt at the age of 30. I realized there is no greater satisfaction in life than quenching the thirst for knowledge. I don’t think I will ever stop studying because I now feel that education is a life-long quest, not a 2, 4 or 8-year journey.

Congratulations tcm92678. We grow is size from child to adult,

but the growth doesn’t need to stop there, and can continue by

growing in knowledge!