So Where Have You Been?

Life has been interesting this week. Midterm grades came out on Wednesday and I am not happy with my progress; more specifically that damned MA122 Calculus class featuring Professor Frightful and his cast of voices in the chalkboard. I don’t know if it’s approaching middle age, an inherited genetic disposition or what but I can not retain what I learn in that class. Let me look at the book and I can calculate a problem six ways from Sunday. Throw an exam in front of me and I can’t remember one of the six thousand “rules” and “formulas” that we have been given. Hell, I barely remember my name.

In today’s business climate one hears about “corporate speak”. One phrase that pops up is “give me the low hanging fruit”. I absolutely dislike this approach to most things but when it comes to calculus, I want to know what formula to use, how to use it and how to derive my answer. I don’t really care about the theory behind it. My goal is to score well on the test. I know this is a poor way to approach learning but I figure that if I have the basics then I’ll be fine because when I return to the “real world” I’ll have a computer at my desk that’s attached to the internet and anything I need to know will be just an expertly worded Google inquiry away.

My other courses are aces and I’m really happy about that. The information taught in my engineering classes comes naturally to me. Even physics, which I never had in high school, is coming relatively easy to me because the professor provides a list of every equation that’s been discussed in the class for each exam and quiz. He doesn’t tell WHAT the equations are for, he just lists the equations and it’s up to you to figure out which one is applicable to a problem. I like this approach and if Professor Frightful would listen to my voice instead of the ones in the chalkboard and do the same I think I would be able to score at least a “B” in the course.

Today we moved onto another subject and he spent 15 minutes proving some complicated formula involving limits approaching infinity, exponents, greek letters and division. After he rattles all this information around and half the class falls asleep, I raise my hand and say, “So when the exponents fall to the denominator, you can drop the variable completely?” His reply was “Yes”. I resisted the urge to say “Why didn’t you just say so?”

Low hanging fruit. Just tell me when to drop what and I’m good to go.