I’m really struggling with precalculus this semester. I don’t know how much of it is me, and how much is an instructor whose idea of teaching is to write things on the board as fast as he can, stopping occasionally to say ‘oops, I made a mistake,’ while never telling us what we’re supposed to learn from the proof he’s doing. Well, ok, yesterday it was explained. “This is Hero’s Law. They don’t show you the proof in the book, so I will show you, for fun. You don’t need to know the proof, but you should do this for fun.”

I’m trying to keep up in class, but more and more I’m turning to outside resources to learn this material. I haven’t a hope of getting an A in this class. I’ll be happy if I pass it. But the really sad part is that I want to learn it. It’s fascinating, and yes, even beautiful at times. But I’m slower than molasses at it, and when I have sixty minutes to complete an exam, it’s hopeless. My homework grades are all that are keeping me afloat, and even that is a group effort, not mine alone.

Youtube hasbeen a great place to find videos explaining concepts, and I have watched the silly song for remembering the unit circle over and over. Khan Academy has been invaluable. My former boss introduced me to it when I started back to college, and it is a terrific resource for students of all ages. I highly recommend it.

It’s amazing how much you can find online these days. I work with multiple tabs open, looking everything up I don’t know, and I can have the answer within seconds. Even for business, when I want to learn a new design, I hit youtube first. I still buy DVD’s on occasion, but it’s gotten rarer for me to do so.


10 thoughts on “‘Rithmatic

      • It did it to mine, too. The school forced me to take it because I tested into it. I hadn’t decided yet, was considering business or engineering, and that made my decision for me.

        That math class is the reason I didn’t graduate with honors. Hopefully you can learn enough outside of class to do more than just pass.


  1. Here’s the thing. I love math concepts, I love the mathematical process. It’s like logic, and I love logic. But there’s a problem. It’s called dyscalculia. It’s a lot like dyslexia, except it affects symbol processing rather than language. Or rather, it does affect language, but not in the same way as dyslexia. But it does mean my spelling is awful, my linguistic processing is odd, and doing any kind of arithmetic on paper is nearly impossible. I can keep track of some stuff in my head, but things move when I’m not looking at them. And often, they move even when I am.

    The crowning irony is that my namesake family patriarch published the first mathematics textbook published in the United States. It also has one of the longest print runs for text books ever, even for textbooks published before this one was. (Yes, that includes horn books) The poem on the flyleaf gives me some hope– and a way out of shame:

    Multiplication is a vexation,
    Division is just the same,
    the Rule of Three puzzles me,
    and practice makes it worse.

    (FYI: “the Rule of Three” is the pre calc method that predated logarithms and slide rules.)


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