Thursday, May 13, 2010

The End

Tonight is my abstract algebra final. I have a take-home part to turn in, and then the final itself is supposed to take about an hour, though we have two hours for it. I'm not as ultra-prepared as I have been for some other tests, but I think I am prepared enough. The take-home part was difficult but I think I'll have close to full credit on it, and I only need a high D or low C on the final in order to have an A in the course.

This is not just a final exam, it is the final exam. Barring the unforeseen, this will be my last act as an undergraduate. My other classes are finished. Sunday is the graduation ceremony, which I am not attending, but after which I will consider myself to have graduated.

Taking my last exam would feel stranger, of course, were I not starting grad school in the Fall. It will be different from this, but will still feature math, homework, exams, and all of that. Leaving my job in a couple of months is going to be weirder than graduating, I think.

I was thinking about my family earlier, the two sides. On my mother's side of the family, everyone goes to college. My grandfather, mother, aunt, and two cousins (which is everyone I know from my side of the family) all have degrees (did my grandmother? I wonder), and my aunt and cousins either have or are working on graduate degrees of some stripe.

College seems more rare on my father's side of my family. My grandfather went to college and seminary, but my grandmother didn't go to college. Of their four children, I believe only one of my aunts has a degree. My father took some college courses but did not graduate. Two of my three cousins started or are about to start college; probably the older has graduated by now (assuming she did graduate).

I have mixed feelings about graduating. It's not really much of an accomplishment for an intelligent person with a middle-class background. You expect it. I had a perfect opportunity to go to my dream school right out of high school, basically for free, and the only reason I didn't get my degree there was that I wasn't mature enough to actually go to classes, do work, study, and so on.

At the same time, it has taken me a number of years to get this degree while working, and I did, over all that time, develop a work ethic (at least towards school), learn how to tackle difficult material, and gain various academic skills, such that I am, these days, a good student. So I do feel a certain sense of accomplishment in finishing something that was initially hard for me. And it was certainly enjoyable as well.

Anyway, tonight is it - the end of my undergraduate career.


Lee Ryan said...

Question: What is purple and commutes?

Answer: an Abelian grape.

I doubt that will be on your final, but just in case.

Good luck.

Tam said...

Ha. You never know.

Speaking of math jokes involving grapes, I like this one:

What do you get when you cross an elephant with a grape?

Elephant grape sin theta.

After this joke you ask, "What do you get when you cross an elephant and a mountain climber?"

The other person says, "Elephant mountain climber sin theta?"

You then say, "No, you can't do it because the mountain climber is a scalar."

Lee Ryan said...

My math joke repertoire has just doubled in size. :-)

Debbie said...

I missed my last final. I showed up for my afternoon test and it turned out it was in the morning. (The prof let me take a make-up, which, unlike the original, was all essay and included material for both halves of the semester. I had only made a B- on the midterm, but I had talked to the professor and studied differently and thought I made a B on the final. Instead I made a D which, averaged with my B-, came out to a D+.) I'm sure none of this is happening to you, though, so congratulations!

Neither side of my family is big on college degrees. I'm definitely the black sheep in getting some early on. My mom may be catching up, though.

Tam said...

Debbie - ouch!

OK, just for you Ryan, two more. The first is courtesy of my grandfather this afternoon.


A boy from the country leaves home and goes off the college. When he comes home for break, his pa says, "So, son, what do you study up at that thar school?"

"Math," he says.

"Well, talk some math then," says the father.

"I don't know, Pa. You don't know any math."

Smack! The father smacks the son right across the mouth. "Now you see here," he says. "I'm payin' for that fancy school, and I want you to talk some math."

"OK, OK," says the boy. "Pi r squared."

Smack! His pa hits him again. "Now listen, boy. Everybody knows pie are round. Cornbread are square!"


OK, this one is a consulting joke more than a math joke, but it still works (and I do work for a consulting firm).

Ask a mathematician what 2+2 is, and she'll say 4.

Ask an engineering what 2+2 is, and he'll say 4.0.

Ask a consultant what 2+2 is, and she'll say, "Well, it's 3 for low values of 2, and 5 for high values of 2."

Sally said...

Yeah, I think this is very different since the fun continues in the fall. It's more like leveling or something rather than reaching the end.

Hah, nice consulting joke - I've definitely been in that position before, where "2" represents some number between 1 and 3 (if not between 0 and 10). I would often respond to a question like what is 2+2 with the objection that the question assumes a level of precision that is unwarranted.

I don't know if this actually was my last final exam in my BA program, but it feels like it now - the public finance final for which we had to write a long essay on a book that was never brought up in class on the reasonable (but note: unwarranted!) assumption that college seniors were capable of reading the syllabus, seeing that the book was required reading, and acting accordingly. Being unable to write an essay on this unfamiliar book brought my course grade down to a B+, which was irritating.

Tam said...

Ouch, that would be painful. Fortunately, I don't think I made any significant errors going into or taking this exam.

I like the consultant joke both because it is true (that is how consultants act), and consultants are right.

Susan Williams said...

Congratulations, Tam!! Good luck in graduate school.

Tam said...

Thanks! I'm excited.