Friday, June 03, 2005

Math is hard

In response to one of my previous posts, someone mentioned asking the previous Ma 1a prof to write a note explaining that my grade wasn't indicative of my abilities. Which got me thinking, for the first time in a while, of the professor who taught both Math 1 and most of Math 2 when I took it.

This was the prof who told me that I was having difficulties w/ multivariable calculus because women had trouble visualizing things in 3D. I'll give him credit for identifying *my* problem, but I think it was pretty uncalled for to make this comment to me and 3 other women standing there, given that this is a science and engineering college and my guess is most women there don't have that problem...

This is also the prof who was reading Playboy during his office hours when my friend went to see him and didn't even attempt to put it away when she came in.

This same guy made me take an ORAL math exam in his office and I had to work out problems on the board. I think I was sick during finals week so this is the way I had to make up the exam. I also had to deal with comments like "clearly you weren't listening during class" and "did you learn anything in my class?" while doing these problems. It didn't help that most of the TAs had an excellent grasp of Math, but not of the English language...

This is the prof who got a call in the middle of the night from some undergraduates who pretended to be the Nobel Prize committee and told him he won the Nobel Prize in Mathematics. He got all excited, until they told him they were just kidding (there isn't a Nobel Prize in Math). Normally, I'd feel bad about this prank but that guy was just so useless as a prof and mean-spirited that I just think it's funny.

He retired immediately after the year I finished my math requirements. Boo to him.


  1. Hey An: Sorry to hear (but unfortunately not surprised) to hear about your experiences with the Math prof. The older I get, the more I think that I'll do everything I can to encourage my kids to go elsewhere for college (assuming I have kids). Of course, then I'll happen to catch some warped new indie movie like Rules of Attraction that purports to show the sex lives of American college students and think that Caltech isn't so bad, especially if I teach my kids exactly how to deal with insecure geeky types :P

    Can you just sign up for the Calculus class to cover your bases? I'm 100% sure you could do the entire course's homework in a week and forget about it. (Get TJ to do it too and you guys'd be done in half that time.) Calc was a requirement for bschool but a joke (yet another way to get $ from students). Those who chose to could take a summer course. The first chapter introduced the concept of a numerator and denominator. You get the picture.

    Did you ever take the CS1,2,3 courses? Those were really trial and error for me. And the textbook they used....sheehs. Guess that's why in the end I could only become a perl hacker.

    Thanks for asking about Lola. She's doing ok, a real trooper and patient as anything, but pretty sick of the car, and I feel really bad for not having a stable place for her. We're in Atlanta, which is better than I expected it to be, but I still have my reservations about returning to the South. I think in the end it'll be a choice between Seattle, DC, and Atlanta. Seattle's negatives are its location vs. Europe, weather, and cost of doing business (around 1% of your revenues goes to the gubment if you do a service business in Seattle thanks to the state & city's B&O tax). Anyway, I enjoy reading your blogs while on the road! Sorry for the response, but guess I'm responding to more than one blog :)

  2. Leslie -

    Thanks for your comments, they're always insightful. I hope you guys pick Seattle so we can have nice chats like this in person :)

    I'm waffling about the Calc class. It does meet in the evening but I also don't want to do "extra" work if I don't have to. I think I'm just going to apply first and see how it goes. If I get rejected, then I'll take some math in the fall and reapply for spring.

    I took CS1 and didn't learn much though I thought the programming assignments were pretty easy. The lectures and textbook didn't make much sense to me. I didn't grasp the concept of a "man-month" until I worked at Microsoft.

    Fortunately the bad experience I mentioned at Tech was the only one of its sort and i'm willing to chalk it up to a bad prof. I did really enjoy my time there. Unlike many, many people i know :)

  3. so I'm confused... are you actually trying to get another BS degree, or is admission to the BS program a technical bureaucratic requirement for taking the class you wanted to take?

    Also, the story you told me about the math prof and his comments about women sounds very familiar. I remembered someone told me the prof had said that to someone else, so I'm wondering if he said that to several different women, or if my memory just sucks, and I remembered incorrectly.

    In any case, that is exactly an example of the kind of "encouragement" women get in school.

  4. Suz -

    I'm trying to get another B.S. degree but the program I'm applying to requires that you complete your general requirements first. Most others applying to this program have completed their AA at a community college or went to UW Seattle for their requirements, so the CS part would only take 2 years. (If you take 15 credits each quarter, which I probably can't since I'll be working full time.) Since I already have a BS, I've covered the first two years.

  5. Man, what a jerk. What is it about these guys that makes them think people can be treated that way? Sure, you're smart. That doesn't mean that you can treat people like crap. Again, what a jerk.


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