Turning Life Calculus into Life Algebra…

Monthly Archives: August 2012

Lately I’ve been reflecting quite a bit on my high school experience. Maybe because I skipped my 10 year reunion, or maybe because I ran into my avuncular AP Calculus teacher at a conference recently. I try to remember what our class was like, but there’s not much I can recall. I remember my class was very small, so I got a lot of one-on-one attention. I remember working on slope fields while listening to Tupac. I remember my teacher giving us peppermints to help us focus during the AP exam, and I remember the feeling of accomplishment when I got my scores that summer and found out I had passed.

It has really made me think: what do I want my students to remember about my class? If they come back for a reunion in 10 years, what will they be saying about Calculus? I won’t be so vainglorious as to proclaim that all my students will remember every skill I ever taught them, but I do hope for a few things. I hope they remember how to use the chain rule by eating M&M’s. Maybe they’ll still have the quotient rule memorized (that silly little formula gets easily stuck in one’s brain). I hope they remember how beautiful calculus can be, even in its most challenging moments. I hope they feel a sense of accomplishment when looking back, and maybe it’ll even inspire some of them to pursue a career in mathematics.

Although it may not be something I strive for, I know one thing my students will always remember about my class: cupcakes.

Okra cupcakes (just kidding, they’re chocolate)

More about that next time. (Hopefully I’ll be feeling more Hemingway-esque then!)

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Welcome to my little piece of the interwebs! I’ll tell you more about myself later, but for now, I’m working on a deadline!

I’ve been thinking about blogging mathematically for some time, but it was really Sam’s blog initiative that gave me the push I needed. I discovered the mathtwitterblogosphere  just about a month ago and I haven’t looked back since! I happened across Dan Meyer’s blog last year, but it wasn’t until this summer that I clicked a link on his site that magically took me to the math community I could never find at my school. [side note: I literally spent 10 hours that first day reading math blogs because I was so excited about everything I was reading. I even forgot to eat dinner! So excited!] I was very jealous of everyone who connected at tmc12 (I was just a little late for that), but I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of this community. I didn’t think I had much to add; everyone seemed so much more knowledgeable than me, what could I possibly bring to the table? I’m still not sure what I can bring, but I’m sure I’ll find my way.

Of course I’ve been procrastinating about starting to blog all because I couldn’t figure out what the heck to call this thing. I looked at my facebook page to see if there was anything that stood out, and I happened upon a quote from my friend: “I want a Laplace transform for my life. It would smooth out the discontinuities, fill in the gaps and turn life calculus into life algebra. Life algebra, I can deal with.” I had always loved this idea of a Laplace transform. I have always appreciated ominous looking math problems that, after a long algebraic fight, turn into a nice pretty answer. This was the math that I fell in love with; this is why I became a mathematician. And the idea of having an operation for life, that could take a big scary problem and wrap it up all pretty and neat, was so beautiful and romantic to me that I always hoped it could be true. But maybe that can be a goal for this blog: to find some things that can simplify (and prettify) my teaching, that turn my teaching “calculus” into teaching “algebra.” Here’s hoping I find some!

[above: my favorite t-shirt, trying to analyze love using math. See store.xkcd.com to get one for yourself!]