Thursday, February 2, 2017

Old Dog, New Math

Some years ago, I decided I didn't know enough about the world. Life kept getting in the way of trying to know more immediately, so I got started a good year or so after that. Reading and reading about the fundamental rules of the physical world. And I came to find one big gap. Many of these books used the language of mathematics. And I barley knew a lick of it.

It was tough trying to learn on my own to start. So I decided I wanted to take a couple classes. Life and bills got in the way. So, finally, a couple years later, I started taking courses at my local community college. Started with intermediate algebra with old folk like me and high school folk alike. Went on to precalculus. More work and catching up (I knew next to nothing about trigonometry). Made it through.

This semester is calculus I, discrete math, and linear algebra. Three weeks in, I feel on pace in some respects and nearly out of my league in others. But I do feel with a bit of hard work that I can make my way to somewhere between the lower ranks and the middle of the pack.

Calculus comes across as the most intuitive for me (but this might be because I spent some time trying to learn it on my own before, with moderate success). Discrete math feels more intuitive than it should be with some work. But that's in part because we've only had some homework so far. When it's just you, a piece of paper, and a question on the test, your mind can start racing. And I can see there is a lot there though and I can already tell that it can catch you off guard of you don't keep up.

Linear algebra is kicking my butt from early. Not in a way that I feel like I'll never be able to catch up. But starting off I'm by far the slowest one in the class.

It's not horribly bad. I came to learn. There's plenty room to do it. And the benefit of going to school for your own sake as non-exceptional adult (more specifically, as someone at least a good 10-15 years older than most of my classmates) is that you are more focused on your own improvement than any insecurities that came with youth or competition. The downside is when you get into a class where everyone moves at twice your speed, if you spend too much time trying to make all the foundational connections your classmates spent making in 6th grade through freshman year in college, by the time you look up everyone else might be miles ahead.

I like to write. Also, I use writing to explain things to myself when I don't understand. Writing is often an exercise of clarification for me.

So I've decided to spend some time using this dormant blog (I think it's been somewhere between 3-4 years since I've written anything here) to explain math to myself.

Maybe it will encourage me to write some other things as well.