Written by David Vogel Wednesday, 08 August 2007 08:51
I recently scared myself by acting like someone who liked math.
I am a person who does not like math, and avoids it at all costs. I am a person who, given the choice between finding the square root of the hypotenuse or getting a root canal, would voluntarily drive myself to the dentist’s office and prep my own mouth for the procedure.
And yet, despite my mathematical dislike, this summer I took an online College Algebra course through Butler Community College.
This is not the part where I scared myself by acting like someone who likes math. Hang tight, and I’ll get there in a minute.
I actually took the College Algebra course with the reasoning being that if I took it now, I wouldn’t have to take it at a more inappropriate time, say, college.
This reasoning made perfectly good sense to me. The LAST thing I want to do in college is take College Algebra.
So with that in mind, I plunged into my second-hand “Bittinger Beecher Ellenbogen Penna College Algebra Graphs and Models” third edition textbook and submerged myself into the wonderful world of equations.
OK, so maybe “plunged” and “submerged” are a little too strong of words. Not to mention fairly soggy.
What I really did was skim, because the first couple chapters turned out to be mostly review of what my Algebra II class had gone over last school year.
By the time I got to Chapter 4, the final chapter in my Butler Community College Online College Algebra course, I was feeling pretty good about math, and life in general.
This is the part of movie where, up until this point, things had been going fairly well, but suddenly BOOM the heroine gets sick and has to graph logarithmic functions.
Well this is a lot like what happened to me, only I don’t have a heroine.
The title of chapter four is “Exponential and Logarithmic Functions.”
I’m sorry, but up until this point, my full personal definition of a “logarithmic function” was the result of eating an entire cheese log at a New Year’s Eve party several years ago, if you catch my drift.
This is where I started to scare myself.
First, the book began discussing the Natural Logarithm, or “ln” for short. This bothered me, because the initials “Natural Logarithm” are “NL,” yet the in the book, the figure is “ln.”
The only sense I could make out of it was that since it is the NATURAL Logarithm, they put the initials in alphabetical order.
But this isn’t the really scary part.
Less than halfway through Chapter 4 (or x < .5) the book became very excited about a new concept that it was introducing.
“We now consider a very special number in mathematics,” the book said. “In 1741, Leonhard Euler named this number e. Though you may not have encountered it before, you will see here and in future mathematics that it has many important applications. To explain this number, we use the compound interest formula A = P(1 + r/n)^nt.”
I didn’t even know what the compound interest formula was (I had no compound interest in it), but I could tell that the book was extremely thrilled with the concept, and so I became very excited about it.
Here is the complete transcript of what went through my head after reading that paragraph: “I wonder what the number e does. I wonder if my calculator has the number e button. I want it to have the number e button.”
So I ran downstairs to my room and grabbed the calculator, and it did in fact have the number e button. I still don’t know what the full purpose of e is, but if you were wondering, e to the 10th power, rounded to two decimal places, is 22026.47.
Later, as I was reflecting on my behavior, the thought crossed my mind, what if I really was becoming interested in math?
What if, given the choice, I really would skip out on the root canal and go factor some trinomial functions.
This could have upset the very fiber of my existence!
Thankfully, a few days past, and I lost all compound interest in the number e. I still don’t know the exact use of the number e, or why Natural Logarithm is shortened to “ln,” or even what a logarithm is really intended for.
But I took the final exam, passed the class, and as far as I’m concerned, I can be done with math forever.
This is assuming I will never need a root canal.
UFO: Algebra comes from the Arabic word al-jabr, an ancient medical term meaning the reunion of broken parts.