I’m registered for two classes this fall at the community college: trigonometry, and pre-calculus. My goal is twofold.
One, for years I’ve wanted to learn vector calculus just for fun. There’s something awesome about the idea of plotting spaceship trajectories, even though I’ll never go to space.
Two, grad school. For over a decade, ever since I took an intro to statistics class for my undergrad degree, I’ve been wanting to get a PhD in stats. I loved that class, and it was ridiculously easy for me. My two upper-level classes on experiment design also used stats, and those were equally fun. My local university has a pretty good stats program, but I need to get through calc 3 just to apply to it.
I love math. But I didn’t learn to enjoy it until I was an adult. As a kid, math was boring and I dreaded it. Which is annoying now, because it means my arithmetic skills aren’t that sharp. I rely on a calculator more than I’d like to, just because certain elementary skills aren’t ingrained.
I blame my teachers. Math classes were always dull. My high school geometry teacher, for example, had us spend half of each class period copying proofs into our notebooks, and we barely used the proofs. But the notebook was a huge part of our grade. She spent very little time teaching, and I dreaded that class all year.
So I am at a disadvantage compared to those who were taught to like math as young people. But I’m not going to let that stop me. If I suck at calculus when I take it in spring, I’ll go to grad school for something else. But I hope I’m good enough at it to get into the stats program. Because statistics are amazing.
Right now I’m doing the algebra course on Khan Academy, because it’s been ages since I took a math class and I want it all fresh in my head when the semester starts. I am enjoying it immensely. I do at least a little every day, and it’s a rush when I solve something correctly. Like, for a brief second, everything in the universe is just right.
It’s a nice feeling.