Monday, October 31, 2005

Math Miseries

The most agonizing moments of my life have been spent pondering over frivolous mathematical nuances. I have this tendency of complexifying the simplest of mathematical axioms - and this leads to extremely long hours on a table trying to comprehend math.

What my friends at IIT could solve in a five minute sitting, it takes me days to do. This always scares me a lot. Why am I so incompetent when it comes to algebra? It's not just algebra. If I am bad at Algebra, then I am a disaster at number crunching. If an exam contains a problem that requires the use of a calculator, then my heart literally sinks. I might as well forget about the points. In my long history of exams, I would not have got more than 5% of the answers right. Uncannily, my method is almost always correct. I am thankful that almost all the exams that I have written have had partial grading. If they had no partial grading, I would probably be repeating almost all the courses at IIT.

I would surely have lost a few grades due to this rather irksome habit of mine. This has impacted my life more than anything. Courses in which I was performing real well have ended up as Bs and Cs because of this pathetic tendency of mine.

But this is not my only anti-academic tendency. There's this extremely steep learning curve. I am one of those students who likes to "guess" what the teacher is about to teach in class by intuition. As long as I am able to do that, I do really well in the class. But if that fails, then I might as well as forget about it. If I don't understand something in class, then that information is never going to enter my head.

This used to be a bother early at IIT, where half the information used to dissipate. I remember miserable hours staring at Elecrtromagnetics in my first year at IIT. Just because the teacher was no good, I still am very mediocre in the subject. And that certainly is not due to lack of trying. I failed to get a fundamental philosophical understanding of the subject. And when I don't get a feel of the subject, I just don't do well.

I am far from the perfect student. As a matter of fact, I am perfectly foul. Actually, that's exactly how I feel when I am not getting something right. When I make mistakes in these things, my blood starts to boil by default. I usually try to avoid people when I am in this mood. But that does not always work out.

Radha called up today when I was in one of my worst ever personal crises. I was unable to do something absolutely trivial. Suffice it to say that the conversation did not go too well. Looks like I will have to pay for my incompetence in more ways than one tomorrow morning. But what am I to do? I would like to paraphrase one of my fellow idiots: "Stupid is as stupid does".

[The author is a PhD student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M.]


xombie said...

Hey don't be so harsh on yourself. Most of us here are not Gaussian or Cauchian either. At least one dies trying; there is some glory in that. Imagine how dull life would be if it was trivial.
Talking about Math, Fluid has this tendency to get the better of you. My turbulence course is similarly esoteric.

The Ignoramus said...

the last bit is the funniest.... "the author is a Ph.D student at ....."