August 1st, 2010

now - in shadow.

Argh, Math: a reprise

On Friday evening, my math teacher e-mailed out eight problems for us to do over the weekend. It was a take home test. Beats doing the work in the classroom, right?

The problems were MURDER. I glanced over them Saturday morning, and read the appropriate book chapters, but I just didn't get it. I thought it'd be best to wait until I got home, and found some of my other math texts, to see if a different author might explain it better. (We're talking about the Simplex method of maximizing/minimizing a system of inequalities. Stupid matrices.) One thing led to another (on Saturday night my Mom came home from France, where she's been for all of July) and I didn't have a chance to read my other math book until this morning. It was a struggle, I gotta say. I worked and re-worked and re-worked the test problems, following the example problems in the textbook, and by the time I left work at 3:00pm - after wrestling with the concept for about six hours, off and on - I'd completed four of the eight problems.

I asked my Dad for help on one of them, and he - a computer engineer who studied mathematics under the man who presented the first proof of this Simplex Method - was stumped. He struggled with the problem for nearly an hour before he'd worked it out, and the difficulties haunted him for the rest of the evening. I felt bad for him. I mean, me? I'm just stupid. But my dad knows this stuff; linear programming is what he does at work! He was not happy.

I kept working on the problems, taking a break only to go out and eat dinner with my parents at a Taiwan restaurant in downtown Willow Glen, and finished around 10:00pm. I'm pretty confident I did the problems correctly, finally, but it has been a LONG time since I devoted so much time to a single enterprise without an extended break. (That's probably a bad thing.)

At least this is the last week of the summer quarter!