Nov 14, 2006

calculus???

it's all coming back to me now..
"the limit of the function f of x as x approaches a equals a real number L if and only if for all epsilons greater than zero there exists a delta depending on epsilon such that x is in some sort of delta-deleted episilon neighborhood around a implying delta had a brain aneurysm when walking by epsilon's house because he tried too hard to pass AP calculus."

I may have screwed something up on the second half of that statement - but i'm pretty sure the first half is right on. yeah, that's what was written on the board as a high school senior in my first day of AP calculus. I can't remember the teacher's name (alston maybe?), but I remember the first half of that.. It actually was the hardest part of the class - probably because it was so damn intimidating to a calculus student who still wasn't sure what calculus was.

Of course, thirteen years later, I don't even know what calculus is.. what's more is that I'm not sure I ever did know. I remember something about limits.. and derivatives.. and I can probably describe both of those concepts to somebody.. but can I actually work with them anymore? hell no.

so yesterday I was informed that, in order to complete my undergraduate degree at SUNY Empire State College, I would have to complete 24 units at Calculus 3 or above. I was enrolled in Calculus 1 (as a refresher) and sent on my way. I start class in late January.

In high school, the car I drove was owned by my parents. My net worth was right around $0 (which is about $20,000 higher than it was about 7 years later), but I knew calculus, dammit! Now my net worth is a bit more than $0 (i own real estate - wee!), yet I'm pretty sure that I can't manage calculus anymore, even as a refresher, unless I boned up on my algebra and trig.

So I strolled into a Borders yesterday and picked up "Calculus for dummies" (a title that seems ironic to everybody but calculus students), sat down, and read the first chapter, which is a review of precalculus. perfect! I was lost. A few things looked familiar, but I didn't even know what I was looking at. Then I got scared when I saw the quadratic equation.



Here's how my mind went..
first thought.. "x equals negative b plus or minus the square root of b-squared minus four-a-c all over two-a"
second.. "I had to know that for my Algebra 1 class! Wow! What was that teacher's name?"
third.. "what was that used for, anyway?"
fourth.. "wait a second.. after algebra 1, I had to take algebra 2, geometry, trig, and then precalculus, all as a prereq to AP calculus"
fifth.. "that's five effin classes that I need to review or else i'll be lost when my class starts!"
six.. "i'm screwed."

I didn't buy the book. Instead, I went home and printed about 300 pages from wikipedia, hoping to bone up on a bunch of math concepts. I also found an online precalculus review. ok. that's a start.. I started reading, and quickly fell asleep. it's going to be a tough two and a half months.

I wonder what the derivative of my panic will be as the calendar approaches the start of classes?