Posts Tagged ‘Math’

Hello, all. If you see this, you are either visiting this blog or are a Piedmont High School teacher seeing it at a staff meeting that you happen to be sitting in right now.

At this very moment.

Yes, I planned that.  (:

Anyway. Today I was going to give a link to Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Friere so you could read it; I was thinking upon it further and really see it as something any teacher should read. And any student, but realistically, that won’t happen. It turns out that I cannot do that due to copyright infringement so instead, I thought I’d link you to a final blog post by an Egyptian revolutionary before Mubarak shut his blog down. Not quite as relevant, but definitely as interesting (:


Now, for the title- and yes, it is relevant. I consider myself to be a rather good student; one thing I apparently cannot do, however, is manage to be successful at Calculus. I have wrestled with it, argued with myself, beat myself down, even cried in school because- for a while- I took my failure at one class as a larger encompassing of my failure as a person. This was my view for such a long time- if I fail at one thing, I fail at everything. I have come to a solution, however, that debunks that personal “myth.”

I thought about it and realized that the reason I am unable to succeed in Calculus- because I really do try- is that it is so black-and-white. There is either a wrong answer, or a right answer. In English and history and languages there is no black or white; instead, there exists a gray region- so large and immense and full of freedom- that I have room to be wrong. I have the ability to argue and to defend, to make sense where there might be none.

In Calculus we have a tool called “integration.” When you integrate between two numbers you are essentially finding the area between them, adding up millions of infinitesimally small lines that make a greater whole. The difference, I realized, is this- if I integrate between two and four, there is one answer, correct to the third decimal place.

But say I wanted to integrate from 500 to 1500, on the “graph” of history. I would be finding the “area” of time; each infinitesimally small period of time- for the purpose of this exercise, let’s allot a minute- added together to make a whole. But the answer wouldn’t be just 1000 years, ten centuries. The answer could be the Dark Ages; the Fall of Rome; the emergence of Britain and France as tangible ethnic groups as they broke from Rome; the rise of the Catholic Church; the split of the Byzantine Empire and the Roman Empire and thus the emergence of Catholicism versus Eastern Orthodox; the attempts of Justinian the Great to create a new Empire; the closing off of Russia from Europe; the start of the Age of Exploration. I could argue any of these answers and they would be correct. It wouldn’t just be 1000 years, ten centuries. It would be all of that and more.

So maybe that’s why I’m not good at Calculus. It is so hard- so absolutely difficult- for me to accept that there is one answer. One formula, one letter allotted to one number to one formula to one single, jailed, iron-clad answer. Make your own connections to Pennies for Peace and education in Pakistan. I’m absolutely sure that there is more than one way to do so :)

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