Friday, May 7, 2010

for all you nerds out there....

This story requires a couple of sidebars. I couldn't decide if it was better to put them next to what they pertained to or to at the end. So they are at the end. You can decide to read it however you wish.****

I found it fitting that I spent my last class of my undergraduate college career surrounded by freshmen. It was a Calculus 2 class. It's a requirement for me to graduate, and while all of my peers found ways to fit it into their schedule in the early years of their college experience, i couldn't find the space until this semester. I've always been one to live on the wild side and wait for the last minute anyway. And besides, who doesn't like taking four year hiatuses* from math before trying to pick it back up again?

We went over the test we took on Wednesday, worked over some examples, and then reviewed a little for the final. The last example took only five minutes. We went through step by step a rather complex problem requiring a few derivatives, a couple theorems and a handful of algebraic tricks. As we neared the end of the problem, i realized the answer was going to break all the rules**.

So I realized. In my last math class. We were about to divide by zero. I sat up straight. Put both hands flat on the table, and clenched every muscle as the professor started putting a zero in the denominator. I'm pretty sure i even closed my eyes in anticipation. After a few seconds of silence, i opened them slowly, looked around and tested to see if my language predominately involved the third letter of the alphabet.

It didn't. I lived. And divided by zero.

Take that Mrs. Herter.***

*this is in fact the appropriate plural form of hiatus. I had to look it up. College hasn't taught me everything.

**I was one of those kids that never questioned math. It always made sense to do exactly what the teacher said. I was trusting and willing to believe them. So when I was taught never to divide by zero, i knew that meant to NEVER divide by zero. It was one of those things that could bring the world to a screeching halt. Like a tower of babel type situation that resulted in everyone's language, everywhere to be only words that start with c's. If we divided by zero, we would all be saying... car cotton clamor conundrum, which literally translated would mean, what the hell did we get ourselves in to?

***Mrs. Herter was my third grade math teacher. We did mad minutes and learned our times tables. She told me never to divide by zero. Because it wasn't allowed. She also pointed at things with her middle finger. It was kind of unsettling.

****who explains blog posts? .....however I do need to note, for all those who know math. Dividing by zero actually is not valid, however it was applicable in this case seeing as we were taking the limit and applying L'Hopital's rules. So dividing by zero works. But only in that case. Still awe inspiring. Or at least a cause of self-implosion.

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