When Calculus is Calcumore

I’ve taken calculus… the same course… three times.

  1. High school senior: I think I enjoyed it but couldn’t really grasp the material. Got a B. I’m done with math.
  2. College freshman: I’m not done with math. I couldn’t test out of calculus. I understood even less than I did just a few months earlier. My classes met in Lunt Hall (the most frequently vandalized building on campus!). And my professor died right before the final exam. Minutes before, I think! The TA was crying as she passed out our exams. Crying! How is a young student supposed to concentrate under those conditions? But finally, done with math.
  3. First year doctoral student: Nope, not yet. The professors thought I could use a refresher course the summer before I started my marketing program. Just a 28-year-old in a study group with 19-year-olds, trying to understand material that made even less sense than it did a decade earlier. And my relationship with math was absolutely not over.

So how can my calcu-mess have a positive outcome?

Well, it keeps me humble, I calcu-guess.

And I ended up where I wanted to be.

Look, we all have weaknesses (for me, higher-level math) and strengths (for me, amazing puns about higher-level math).

And now, a few decades later, it just doesn’t matter. Nobody asks me about calculus.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not one of those complaining “when will I ever need to calculate instantaneous rates of change in the real world?” types.

I have great appreciation for liberal arts and learning how to learn, understanding how to make connections. I hope you do too. You’re not always going to have a TI-35 handy.

What I’m saying is: Accept your weaknesses. Embrace your reality, and then improve where you need to improve, do the work, or accept that you’ll need someone to help you the next time you want to determine the summation of infinitely many small factors to determine some whole.

See? I learned something: how to look up definitions online.

What do you think?

Is there anything you weren’t so good at but either you became good at it, or realized you could do just fine without it?

See you tomorrow!