The first around that I did this level of math (secondary school), I didn’t learn a damn thing. Ann Lucy is one of the sweetest women imaginable, but she was completely incapable of managing a class of eighteen teenagers who weren’t particularly inclined toward learning. Even on the days when I did tune in, and picked my head out of a novel to pay attention, I didn’t pick up anything. I think I eventually scraped a pass in foundation level math?

Once I went out into the wide world, I didn’t really miss math. Currys didn’t require anything above addition and subtraction (sometimes), Monarch Promotions threw in a bit of multiplication and division, and Expedia.com was wholly “is x greater than y or vice versa?” I did more with it in my spare time as I went along with my own love of space; even if I have no handle on most of the math involved with neutron stars or finding extrasolar planets, it is convenient to have a grasp of distances, sizes and basic terminology (mJ for instance). Long-exposure photography – both infrared and night – requires it too.

So honestly, I wasn’t completely ignorant of math. I am, however, completely ignorant of most of the basics. Believe it or not, it wasn’t until yesterday that I completely understood what the square root of a number is, nor what is the easiest way to find it (√x = x(^0.5) – multiply x to the power of a half, or 0.5). I am enjoying my current math class because of this: I am learning stuff that I should already have known. I’m engaged in the class, I am extensively note-taking and I am asking questions.

The only thing so far that has struck me dumb is powering any number to 0. Any number powered to zero is one. There’s a short proof here. It is stupidly simple and, practically speaking, I don’t need to understand it: Whenever I see x^0 I just need to mentally translate it to “1”.

Grr.


in college

Mark Grealish

Dashing brigand, handsome rapscallion, father, crazy cat lady and the world's greatest lover and liar, living in Galway, Ireland.




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