Re-introducation to Algebra

René Descartes

I hardly remember doing algebra in school [is that middle school?], but something last week came through me when I was once again [for the 50th-thousandth time] exploring the different variance in programming languages and reading different blogs by programmers [https://blog.codinghorror.com/ for one] and pondering the idea of computer science I stumbled upon the reality of one thing I have struggled with in learning to code proficiently is understanding variables [see link] and how they’re very similar [maybe I’m technically way off base here, but it’s how I’ve just now related to it] equations in algebra. I hadn’t thought of algebra since the last time I had to do a math problem – I did fine in math in school, but I never applied myself and never learned the purposes of it. But through reading some other books about the science behind the earth and the universe all of the sudden, I realised, math is something I want to invest in.

So, I jumped on Khan’s Academy and watched his intro videos on algebra – giving the ancient history of it. One of the most fascinating things that I came away from those videos was the idea that Rene Descartes had was to figure out how you could physically map out equations on a Cartesian plane [I’m clearly making this much more simple than the reality of his work] and for the first time, plotting out x and y coordinates made sense. And it was a light bulb above the head moment. I know that doesn’t explain everything, but for me it was, yes, math is important for the entirety of all of our existence.

What I am looking for now is more knowledge – I want to be able to make math applicable to the rest of my life and make use of this important fundamental tool.

So I forged into the first quiz and somewhat surprisingly had no issues. I went through the second quiz and had no problems with that either.

[quick: Evaluate 1/4c + 3d when c=6 and d=7. See - not so difficult, right!?]

The third pre-quiz is where I ran into a small stumble and that was just because I made minor miscalculation – but that reminded me of the concentration required for the progress to be evident. And instead of swaying me, it inspired me. I want to develop a better ability to concentrate on difficult tasks [this mini-rant is for a different subject, but our society’s #DistractMe culture is a great disservice to the growth and development of good productive people].

One of the things that I have found out about myself in this season – my mid-thirties, husband, father, worker, provider – is that I’m aching for knowledge in a way I never have. Even when I went back to college in my mid-twenties, I didn’t really thirst for knowledge the way that I do  now. There is a part of me that wishes I had been this thirsty when I was 15 – who knows what I would have done with my life then. I suppose there is a reason I wasn’t interested then – it’s probably not a great reason, though.

So here’s to the exploration, the learning, the development, the growth – here’s to the maths!

jsf