Anatomy Of A Calculus Assignment

Back in the day, a calculus assignment involved the following items:


  • Pencil (preferably mechanical)
  • Graph paper (not necessary if your teacher wasn’t focused on aesthetics)
  • Scientific calculator (back in the day for me was the late 80’s and early 90’s)
  • An affinity for strategically contained profanity
  • A friend who knew what the hell he was doing on the assumption (or knowledge) that you didn’t.  Ignore the misogyny there.  There were no women in my calculus classes.


Even still, the knowledge I gathered in that year in which I took three different Calculus classes gave me no real foundation for my eventual role (or roll, take your pick) as a Bidness Analyst in the financial services industry some twenty years later.


Or did it?


I’ll tell you right now that it’s been a long time since I calculated the area under a curve, and can barely remember where to start.


Even though I don’t do that on a regular basis, I invoke a lot of the same problem solving skills I learned back in the day in order to solve the problems that come up in Cubeville today.  For those you who don’t have a Business Speak to English / English to Business Speak dictionary at hand, a problem is the same thing as an issue complete with the negative connotation.


So what do I have left over from three psychotic semesters of calculus?


Problem solving skills and a Casio fx-7500G graphing calculator.


I didn’t really realize that until just now.  Sure, I know I have the calculator.  I use it to keep ongoing track of our grocery bill whenever we’re getting a big load of vittles.  I’m sure my professors from back in the day would be rolling in their respective graves over that if they just happen to be dead.  Come to think of it, I haven’t found them on Facebook yet.


Last week, Junior hit me with a request for a trip to the hardware store in order to complete an assignment he has for calculus.


As a reminder, Junior is less than three weeks away from finishing high school.  He has plans to go to a music school to study viola.  He will most likely test out of whatever math classes his degree plan throws at him.  Senioritis has set in, and he’s pretty much phoning it in at this point until the last week of this month.


For his calculus class, Junior has to create some sort of elaborate curve or other shape in segments in order to create a visual representation of how the area under a curve is calculated.  For this project he’ll need:


  • Pencil (at this point, who cares what type?)
  • Ruler
  • A working knowledge of the Pythagorean Theorem
  • Paint
  • Wood glue
  • Plywood
  • Velcro
  • Jigsaw
  • Sander
  • Saw horses will help


For this, he’ll create a segmented, pyramid, shaped thingy which will carry a specific domain and range.


As a result of creating this thingy, Junior has learned that the jigsaw blade gets hot from the friction of cutting plywood.  He learned that the jigsaw has a compartment built into it to store extra blades.  He learned that his hand will get numb after prolonged use of an orbital sander.  He learned that the Gorilla Glue brand of wood glue is pretty darn good stuff.  He learned where I keep my rubber mallet used to put the lid back on the paint.  He also learned what happens to my bald head when I go outside to help him with a calculus project without exercising the forethought of putting a lid on.  I learned that part too.


I really can’t complain though.


After all, he got some exposure to the woodwork he missed out on by not joining the Cub Scouts with the express intent of building a Pine Wood Derby car.  If he developed a better understanding of finding the area under a curve (or whatever) for use many years in the future, so be it.

Randy Tharp

TharpSter is a husband to one woman, a father to two kids, a master to two dogs, an occasional cubical occupant, and unable to make up his mind on an adequate theme for this website.

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