Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Polynomial Expressions

As a part of living my Best Life, I have decided to return to school and finish the degree I put off for so long. When I got married and had children, that “piece of paper” saying I was a contributing, intelligent member of society lost its luster….became less important. Now that I am on my own, the lack of intellectual “pedigree” is a Vegas-sized flashing light beckoning me to come back….come back…

As if my life wasn’t complicated enough……

But….it’s for me….and I have decided to jump back into the world of academia… 40+ years old… How bad can it be??

Registering for classes was somewhat simple. Gone are the endless lines at the registrar’s office…everything is now online. Of course, my transfer credits are not at the number I would like for them to be (who knew that courses like English Composition and Philosophy had expiration dates…) but I figure I will get that all sorted out after I get my feet a little wet.

First on the agenda is taking a math placement test so I can get a math class out of the way. Now mind you, math is not my strong suit… a matter of fact…..the thought of doing math problems makes me break out in hives, but the test must be done and I am determined not to take remedial math.

I enlisted the help of my favorite person….my man….The Man. In my book, having a math degree is one degree shy of being a super hero. Bursting into my living room, cape flying….The Man declared, “Madam….I’ll save you!!!!” The Man began explaining the complexities of Polynumeric-binomial-triconfuso expressions…. I cocked my head to the side….squinted….sipped my glass of wine….and paused…. “You have no idea what I just said, do you?” the Man patiently declared….. I retorted, “If I did, I would already have a math degree…” The Man spent the next hour and a half patiently explaining….re-explaining…and listening to my endless questions of “why are they called irrational?” .. "why is f(x) really “Y”….why don’t they just call it “Y"?” He is a saint…it was past midnight already…I have put in a nomination for canonization with the Pope…..

Why are we frantically studying math at that hour??

Well……ahem….on a whim, I decided that the time to take the test was now and scheduled the seemingly benign math placement test….tomorrow. After all, I am a good shopper (and hence good at shopping math) and the reason I would TAKE algebra was to learn algebra….so how hard could the test be? After scheduling the test, I researched what I needed to know….. Horror of horrors……I was clueless!! Help was needed!! I frantically wrote the following Rescue Me! email to The Man.

Subject: OMG!! I think I need a wee bit of help!!!!!!!

Did a bit of prelim looking at skills needed to “pass” the placement test (and not have to take a stupid remedial class)…..

TO BE PLACED INTO: Math 104, 108, 118, 150, 170

• Add, subtract, multiply and divide whole numbers and decimals. Check
• Solve simple word problems involving the above operations and numbers. Check
 • Make comparisons and perform calculations with fractions, decimals, and percents. Check
 • Solve multiple-step word problems involving fractions, decimals, ratio, percents, average, and proportional reasoning. Check-ish
 • Solve word problems involving perimeter and area. Check – I think – Perimeter is simple adding and area is height*width – correct?
 • Find square roots. Um………I can define it……but I don’t remember how to find it…..
 • Solve simple equations using a variable. Check
 • Understand order relationships between signed numbers. What in the hell is a signed number??? Are they in counseling??
 • Perform simple operations with negative and positive integers. Those are negative and positive numbers, correct??
 • Know and understand the order of operations. Um… first….drink second?? Maybe – Parenthesis first….then…???
 • Perform simple operations with radicals. Like Osama Ben Laden?? Help!!!!!
 • Factor polynomials and quadratic expressions. Factor?? Quadratic Expressions?? Like Yebese?? (Serbian swear word) Help!!!
 • Solve simple quadratic equations by factoring. I am so sunk!!!
• Perform simple operations with polynomials. Like taking out a spleen?? What is a Polynomial? Are they friendly?
• Solve simple rational equations. Obviously, I do not hang out with rationals….only irrationals….
 • Simplify and evaluate algebraic expressions. :) =good  :( =Sad ;)=Sassy
 • Graph linear equations. Um…..Help!!!!
 • Solve word problems involving algebraic principles. I think I can do this…..

TO BE PLACED INTO: Math 105, 107, 119

• All of the above plus
 • Solve systems of linear equations (equalities) with two variables by graphing and/or algebraic manipulation. Manipulation – aaaahhh something I can finally understand!!!!
 • Manipulate factors to simplify complex fractions. Um….is this to actually GET a math degree???
 • Work with algebraic expressions involving real number exponents. I know that I *should* know what an exponent is….
 • Solve absolute value equations. I am absolutely going to have to take remedial math!
 • Graph simple parabolas. Sounds like something you would need hand sanitizer for….
 • Have a basic understanding of function notation, such as determining the value of a function for a specific number in the domain. What??
 • Show a limited understanding of the concept of function on a more sophisticated level, such as determining the value of the composition of two functions. Conjunction junction….what’s that function…..Ahem....English Major!!! 
 • Have a rudimentary understanding of coordinate geometry. Um – I can find Mexico…..
 • Have a rudimentary understanding of exponential functions and logarithmic functions. I hate math!!!!!

Well….Here’s to growth…..and to exploring things unknown…things undiscovered!! And kudos to the people in my life who encourage me….help me….and even, from time to time rush in….cape flying in the wind…and rescue me from the scary things in life (even if they are just a math problem).


niccupp said...

You had me laughing! I'm glad you have the man there to help. I think he made up the word triconfuso. I don't remember ever hearing it before.

If you find that you would like tutoring, I have a few friends who are math teachers. One teaches at a college and the other is a high school Algebra teacher. They are both excellent!

Becky P said...

Glad I made you giggle, Nic!!! Triconfuso is my word....seemed to fit....seems like math is a foreign language to me...I like the romance of poetry and a beautifully written sentence.... Fortunately for me, The Man finds beauty in math - - before my test he even texted me, "Remember, Math is fun!!"

I'll keep you posted!!

Robby said...

My degree is math too, Becky. I'm fascinated by why math is difficult to understand.

I think it helps when we express mathematical concepts not as numbers but as statements. For example, the fundamental theorem of algebra is that a polynomial of degree N has exactly N solutions. This means that the defining characteristic of algebra is the relationship between solutions and degree. If you understand what one means, you understand what the other means. It's kind of like saying that that the fundamental law of physics is that for each action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Okay, I've rambled. Let me know if you want to talk math sometime soon!

Becky P said...

ahhhhhh....... it's like you are speaking French and I can pick out a phrase or two... ;)

I do like what you said about math being a relationship between solutions and degree (although I am not exactly sure exactly *what* degree implies....)...

I am learning that math can be beautiful as well....

Thank you, Robby!!