Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Back to School, Part 1: Calculus 3

Last night I started both of my classes. I'll talk about Calc 3 first.

I am not too sure, going into this class, how much trouble I might have with it as a result of basically not remembering a lot of math. (The last time I felt really smart and competent in math was probably my freshman year at Rice - 1992!)

The professor is a woman probably in her 50s with naturally multi-colored hair (some white, some almost blondish, some quite dark) and a somewhat spacey demeanor. But she seems very solid on the math, as you'd expect, and very kind. She started class by taking attendance and making sure each of us passed Calc 2 with at least a C. When I said I took it 14 years ago at Rice ("Where is Rice?"), she was concerned and told me to make sure and come to her right away if I needed help. She encouraged the whole class to come to her for help during her office hours or whenever she is around, and pointed out that the math tutoring lab is a good place to do homework and is right across from her office, so if no tutelage is available there, you can just come over for extra. So she's nice in that way (which most professors seem to be, though a lot don't advertise it as much).

The material in at least this first class was not too hard. It was about graphing things in 3 dimensions. So we talked about the equation for a circle (already known) and derived the equation for a sphere. And drew graphs of things like '1 <= y <= 5' and other stuff in 3D. Then we started the section on vectors. So far, so good. I did run into one math technique I wasn't familiar with ("completing the square") but it didn't seem very difficult.

We already have the list of homework assignments for the entire semester. For each section we cover in the book, there is a set of problems we have to do from the book (e.g., "3, 7, 9, 11, 19"). each problem set is due on the Monday after she finishes covering that section, so if she finishes a section on Monday or Wednesday, the homework is due the following Monday, but if she has only started the section and not finished it, no homework is due yet.

Because I'm crazy and enjoy going back to school, I had stocked my binder with three types of paper - regular lined notebook paper, graph paper, and blank unlined paper. I wasn't sure which would be optimal for the classes. I started taking my Calc 3 notes on the lined paper, but it was making me irritated. When I switched to the blank paper, it made everything so much nicer. So evidently that is the right choice for calculus, which I remembered thinking in 12th grade and at Rice...but it's been a while, you know?

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