Sunday, May 14, 2017

Learning anew

How much I hated the rote learning of formulas, especially when it came to trigonometry & calculus!

For one, I didn't understand why it was remotely useful for those of us who'd taken up accounting / commerce as our primary learning area (no, we couldn't do double degrees - one was bad enough!) Worse still, was the (now apparent) lack of understanding of some teachers themselves, in so far as being unable to explicitly tie the things we were learning to something in the visible world.
There was neither the intrinsic motivation to learn, nor did it seem relevant or important to just get on with it, & get an intuition for it.

There may have been a few of my fellow students who innately understood it in relation to their technical interests, but I strongly suspect they cared about as much as I did, which was very little.

A couple of weeks ago, Rasmus Baath, a researcher, tweeted a link to a 100+ year old Calculus text book, which he followed up by tweeting that his one post that went viral was a book on maths, not cats! I was curious why that may have been so, & spent a little time looking for the pdf of the book that is now clearly out of copyright, & therefore freely available.

Two pages in, & I was hooked. I mean, how could you not be, when the book is titled: "Being a very simple-est introduction to those beautiful methods of reckoning which are generally called by the terrifying names of the differential calculus and the integral calculus by the RFS".

The quote on the next page simply states: "What one fool can do, another can" (Ancient Simian proverb)

The prologue is even more relevant: "To deliver you from the preliminary terrors, which chokes off most (kids) from even attempting to learn how to calculate", with a lucid explanations about the dreadful symbols for differentiating & integrating!

I've now spent at least a good few hours of my time learning about the fascinating teaching style of the author, a man named Silvanus Thompson! I know he'd have gotten an incredible amount of needling from the boys he'd have taught (if my classmates were any reflection of the cruelty reserved for teachers). I'm grateful that he took the time to write as he has, & that the book is still available.  I know it is, because I bought a used copy off one of my favourite online bookseller.