Sunday, March 02, 2008

Math Tilt

Over the past six months, I've been retaking the math classes I took in high school to get the college credit I need in order to specialize in middle school math for my teaching program. I was envisioning a nice refresher of algebra and trigonometry to get me in the right frame of mind once the teaching program starts up.

But this quarter is hell.

The math professor I have has a very thick Russian accent, and she and I are never on the same wave-length. I don't know how much of it is her having English as a second language, or how much it is our completely different psyches. Whenever I ask a question, she ends up answering something completely different than what I asked, and no matter how I try and describe it differently, she never understands what I'm getting at until somebody else says THE EXACT SAME THING I just said, and for some reason she understands them and answers the question.

I found out last Monday that she used to work in Russia with nuclear submarines. She knows her shit, but she also is a terrible teacher. She berates students that come in late and students who ask "stupid" questions. It is fairly obvious that she means well, but her temper is so short, and the fact that I haven't heard her issue a single word of encouragement rubs me the wrong way. Students are afraid to ask questions, and I wouldn't be surprised if half the class is failing. She comes to class the next day and berates the class for having such poor test scores. I want to bring a mirror to class tomorrow night.

We have homework assigned, which we are supposed to keep up with--but the homework isn't graded. We have "assignments," and we get a new "assignment" every Wednesday, which is due the following Wednesday. These are five to ten different *difficult* math questions, that are supposed to challenge us and take us hours to complete. The weekly dynamic of the class has boiled down to everyone meeting in the math learning center an hour before class on Wednesday to copy off the smart kids. I try to get the assignments done, but we don't go over half of the material on the damn things, and the problems are 10x more complex than anything in the text book.

On top of the weekly graded assignments, we have a test coming up tomorrow. The assignment we have is on the next chapter after the test, so it doesn't make any sense to work on that now, nor does working on the homework for the next chapter--but if I don't start working on them now, instead of studying the material for the test--I'll have five hours of "assignment" to do Tuesday night.

I'm tilting because I picked it up today and tried to tackle a few of the problems. I recognized a few questions that I had an idea of how to complete, but I ended up spending an hour and a half on one of the problems, which had to do with the Law of Sines and Cosines, and bearings.

There is a fire N35E of Ranger Station A, and N49W of Ranger Station B. If Ranger Station A is 1.3 miles due West of Ranger Station B, how far is each Ranger Station from the fire?

Then the follow up question adds in a helicopter, capable of dumping water on the fire. The helicopter is located at Ranger Station C, which is 1.5 miles S42E of Ranger Station A. The follow up questions ask how far Ranger Station C is from the fire, and at what bearing is the fire from Ranger Station C.

I find these types of questions pretty fun, because there are many ways to solve them. So I work through this problem for about 30 minutes and get all the way to the final part of the second question, and I get stuck trying to figure out how to find the bearing from C to the fire. An hour later, I finally figure it out.

As I'm checking over my answers to make sure I haven't made any stupid mistakes, I find in the book that N35E is 35 degrees East from North, not 35 degrees North from East. I worked the entire problem with the latter. Now I have to go back and redo the entire problem with the correct angles.

Ugh. Back to the grindstone.

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Blogger Jessica said...


4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i couldn't help but think about me as a math teacher throughout that...

this is why you are going to be an awesome math teacher and why i'd be better off doing it for fun.
but I'm still jealous ;)


1:53 AM  

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