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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”.