Sunday, September 27, 2009

Autumn and algebra

Autumn cometh. Snow in the mountains, leaves in the wind. Just kidding about the snow, since we're in Wichita and there are no mountains within several hundred miles. But the leaves really are beginning to drift up at the edge of the yard and and we've run the furnace a couple of times. Something about fall: this is the time of year some of us ponder the middle distance and reconsider our old best dreams.

My dreams never involved taking introductory algebra again. About 40 years ago I was happily certain I'd left that subject behind for good. And yet here I am, sitting a classroom every day, struggling through the little tricks involved in graphing polynomial equations. I don't hate it as much as I expected to. Algebra has an elegance of its own, not least because the correct answer is not a matter of subjective judgment. After working exclusively with English words for nearly all my life, with all their unruly ways, it's kind of refreshing to learn the precise language of mathematics. 

Anyway, that's what I've been reading lately: Introductory Algebra, 10th Edition, by Marvin Bittinger. The plotting is wooden and the characters nonexistent, and the used paperback version I bought cost $85 -- about three times what Dan Brown is getting for The Lost Symbol.  Let's just say it's not for everybody.

9 comments:

Ryan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ryan said...

After reading your last post I thought you were done with this blog! And I couldn't comment!

I was quite sad, actually.

But this is nice. I'm glad you're back. Keep up the wit and fantastic writing, man.

I thought it'd be funny to make an algebra joke relating my interest in the blog over time to an exponential growth equation, but I'll spare myself the embarrassment.

Anonymous said...

Dave,

Best of luck with the algebra -- figuring equations is great practice for puzzle lovers and authors of intricate crime fiction. You'll do fine. After failing miserably at algebra in high school, something clicked in college and I ended up tutoring the subject in the math lab at UM. Go figure ...

P.S. Glad to see the blog is still alive and kicking.

Brian and Trish said...

It's great to see you're blogging again! I was trying to deal with my Dave blog withdrawal, but now I'm better. Thanks for writing!

Dave Knadler said...

Thanks. I kind of lost sight of the reason I do this, and became frustrated. For me, it's a writing exercise, and best not neglected. Sorry it's been so long between posts.

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