Friday, May 20, 2011

Calculus: The Original Series, or: The 12 Most Important Things in College I Learned in Math 112

Trying to get back into Calculus inevitably brought thoughts of my instructors at Michigan State. 

He gave me a D.  It broke my heart.  But I got a lot out of the experience anyway.  Here is a note I posted on facebook about it:

  • I'm thinking about sending this to the professor who taught the above-mentioned class. It was in 1981. He is now approaching his mid-seventies, so I feel some urgency to send it, if I ultimately do. 
  • I am not lying about the title or exaggerating it in any way.
  • 12 through 9 may seem puzzling, but each of them are answers to the first question on one of the tests throughout the term (10 weeks; this was Michigan State in the eighties).
  • 5 through 7 each, in some way, refers to the bar where he and four other guys played in a bluegrass band once a week.  
  • These are not all direct quotes from the instructor; sometimes, they are paraphrased, or merely inferred.
The 12 Most Useful things about College, I learned in Calculus (in which I got a D)

12)   The upper case letters of the Greek alphabet are written thus:  Α,  Β,   Γ , Δ , Ε , Ζ , Η , Θ , Ι , Κ , Λ, Μ,  Ν,  Ξ,  Ο,  Π,  Ρ,  Σ , Τ,  Υ ,  Φ,  Χ , Ψ , Ω

11)   The lower case letters of the Greek  alphabet are written thus:  α, β,  γ, δ,  ε,  ζ, η , θ,  ι , κ , λ , μ,   ν, ξ, ο,  π,  ρ,  σ, τ,  υ,  φ, χ,  ψ,  ω

10) The names, in order, of the letters of the Greek alphabet are: <i>alpha,  beta, gamma, delta, epsilon, zeta, eta, theta, iota, kappa, lambda, mu,  nu, xi, omicron, pi, rho, sigma, tau, upsilon, phi,chi, psi, and omega [a]

9) [The modern English translations of a bunch of important Latin abbreviations &amp; phrases, EXCEPT in loco parentis, which will be translated below.]

8) The modern English translation of in loco parentis  is, approximately:  “Just because you are not living with your dad  anymore doesn’t mean someone won’t make sure you’re not staying out late  and partying.  Now, it’s your math professor’s job.”

7)  If you go to Michigan State and are over 18, feel free to visit nearly  all the wonderful emporiums of food and drink on Grand River and in East  Lansing as a whole. But under no circumstances should you go to Casey’s Bar.

6) Casey’s Bar has the best Long Island iced teas.

5) Bluegrass rocks.

4)  Don’t miss your opportunity; e.g., don’t be late for math, because no  one will be admitted after the class is scheduled to start.[b]

3) Learn a foreign language. If you already know one, learn another.  German is good.

2)  A’s are much more fun to get than D’s, but you will sometimes learn  more useful things from taking the class in which you got the D.

1) Never study the night before a test.

[a] This has proved very handy while solving a variety of word puzzles.

[b]  Actually, I never really learned this lesson well.  I was late for his  class once, never again.  I have been late for many other things since, however.


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