Late last night, I fell asleep cradling my AP Calculus AB prep book like a small animal or child. I awoke this morning with my calculator in front of my face and notebook paper crumpled at my side. I spent the hours between 9:30 a.m.-12:35 p.m. frantically attempting to re-memorize the Mean Value Theorem and the Intermediate Value Theorem and the Extreme Value Theorem and all the other trivial nonsense that slipped in one ear and out the other at some point last semester.
This afternoon, I ran–with my calculator and No. 2 pencil in hand–through the pouring rain from my father’s car to the school’s entrance. When one of my classmates finally opened the locked door for me, together we took the long, solemn march to our inevitable doom: a three hour comprehensive final exam.
When I emerged from the school three hours later, the rain had stopped; the sun shone overhead. It was basically a metaphor for the day’s emotions. When I got in the car with my mother, she asked me how it went. Apparently the extended concentration had drained my cognitive abilities because my response was, “Umm, there were a lot of math words. Yeah. Lots and lots of … math words.”
But that exam and its preparation are worth it because, in exactly 10 days, I will never have to look at my stupid calc prep book again. I’ll take one more exam, and then have clearance to forget everything about derivatives I’ve ever learned, ever. I have fantasized all year about what horrible fate will befall my calculus notebook. I can’t decide whether to put the whole thing in my gerbils’ tank for them to slowly chew apart each individual page bit by bit or to fold a thousand origami swans out of it, make a mobile and set the creation afire in the wind.
For the last two years, calculus has been a thorn in my side, digging deeper into my flesh every time I try to position myself more comfortably. As the end of this dreary, math-infested tunnel looms ahead, I’ve decided to put aside my disdain for calculus and try to focus on all the positive experiences I’ve had during its tenure. Here are some quality moments:
1. Vectors. I don’t remember much about vectors from Pre-Calc except that they have “direction and magnitude.” That doesn’t really seem important unless you’ve seen Despicable Me. When super nerd Victor changes his name to “Vector,” he does some sick pelvic thrusts in his orange track suit and declares that he has, “both direction and magnitude!”. Shout out to Disney for the quality math pun. Shout out to my Pre-Calc student teacher for showing the clip from the movie in class. Shout out to me for enlightening some of you.
2. Limits. Again, movie references made calculus bearable. As if I didn’t respect Tina Fey enough already, she slipped some real math into Mean Girls. The limit does not exist.
3. Retakes. I have retaken every test except one this year. Supposedly, no one is allowed to retake calculus exams, but I found a loophole: math tutoring. I spend several hours in the library at calc tutoring after school each week, struggling with the latest concepts and pretending not to cry. Even with extra help, I still perform on a subpar level when it comes time to demonstrate my knowledge on the exam. Ninety percent of the semester grade is based on tests, so subpar doesn’t really work for me. Fortunately, the calc teachers are willing to let students who try hard–and still fail miserably–give it another go (and another and another and another).
4. My table buddy. I’ve sat next to some really smart people who’ve helped me through derivatives and integrals and mental breakdowns. Right now, my genius Vietnamese friend sits in front of me and teaches me everything. He recently started watching Gossip Girl during class, though, so he’s been slightly less of a tutor and slightly more of an entertainer.
Those are the only positive moments I’ve had during my calculus career. For those of you keeping track at home, there are about 18 weeks in a semester, with an average of four class periods each week, and I’ve taken four semesters of calculus-related classes. This adds up to about one positive experience per every 72 classes. Hopefully AP Statistics will be more enjoyable. (That’s how much I hate calculus–I’m actually looking forward to taking Statistics.)