Calculus


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Let's just say I'd probably be better at math than dancing.

I was thinking about calculus while I was brushing my teeth the other day. Calculus, being the name for the crusty buildup that develops when too much tartar accumulates. Brushing doesn’t remove it and neither does flossing: the only hope is to prevent it from getting a foothold or having a dental hygienist scrape it of with a pointy tool while making small talk through a surgical mask.

I was doing my best to floss around some formations building up in the shelter of my permanent retainer and found myself thinking about the other kind of calculus: the math kind.

I never made it as far as calculus in high school. For a student who took AP classes in Physics, French, English, and Art it’s a little bit funny that I graduated with only a semester of. Algebra 2 and a semester of Trigonometry (and only passing grades at that). No Pre-Calc. No Calculus.

In retrospect, it’s no surprise that I didn’t get into Dartmouth.

I recently learned that the words “algebra” and “algorithm” come from a common root in Arabic. I’m not sure why this had never occurred to me before: algorithms are algebra problems. Duh. Elaborate systems built to navigate the relationships between multiple unknown variables… This sounds like it ought to be right up my alley.

Why was I so bad at it the first time around?

Maybe I’m just bad at math. I’m a girl after all, right?

Utter Fucking Nonsense.

I happen to think that I could be pretty good at math if I could just focus on it and get some proper training. Do they offer calculus classes in adult night school? I have a calculus text book on my bookshelf that I bought for a dollar at a yard sale because it is something that I’d like to learn, but my fear is that I’d have to go all the way back to the basics before I could even crack it.

Order of operations basics.

Quadradic formula basics.

If I hadn’t learned it in high school then did I even still have the capacity to learn it now? Maybe it’s too late: I’m a lot more focused and motivated now, but my brain is a lot less squishy and porous. Is an indifferent teenager a better student just as a matter of sheer physiognomy? The brain of a teenager has been proven to be different from that of an adult, after all.

But I’m still interested in it. It seems like something interesting to know. I know I’d work a lot harder to learn it now as an adult. Maybe it’s not too late.

A girl can hope.

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on July 15, 2015.

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