In Which Ella Declares Her Love for the Idea of Math and Gets Defeated by Trig Identities

I am absolutely fascinated by math. I love the way that it explains the world around me and makes sure that the buildings I am in don’t collapse. I love the way that circles are actually just bloated triangles and that rhombuses aren’t the same shape as squares. I love how it can help me figure out the likelihood that something will happen, and how close I am to finishing tasks. Unfortunately, this appreciation has not transfered into prowess.

Now, I know that I am not an exceptional math student and will never be able to become an actuary or engineer, but I like to fancy myself somewhat capable. If you teach me a concept, I can quickly grasp it and repeat it with high accuracy, and this has been the case ever since I was introduced to the concept that when you put two groups of things together, you get more stuff. (Interestingly, most babies can do addition and subtraction at a few months. And by addition and subtraction, I mean they look surprised when you show them one object, put up a screen, and then drop the screen and show them two or more of the same object.)

So I’m stuck doing the entire Trig/Calc curriculum before the end of the school year. It’s actually been quite easy so far and kinda fun. I follow the directions and boom! I get the answer. Of course, I don’t know when I’ll ever use this stuff again, but it’s nice having something to do that’s methodical. No one is asking me to analyze anything, and perfect answers are both possible and easy to obtain. The security of knowing that you are entirely right and that no one will ever challenge your answer is so reassuring. (I only feel this way about simple mathematics, though. The fact there are no entirely right answers or perfect solutions is one of things I love most about the world.)

Today, I gamely headed off to the library to enjoy the air-conditioning and work on my Chapter Seven packet. I did the last few problems on the first page easily, and flipped it over to discover that 7-2 was all about Verifying Trig Identities, and for me, that is a really funny joke. I have been taught how to verify trig identities four times. Once by my old math teacher, who besides being senile, was not very good, and three times by the teacher I have now. It’s rather embarrassing.

I settled into my chair, tucking one leg between my chest and the table and sitting on my other ankle, and spent a good forty-five minutes staring at the worksheet. I answered the one my teacher helped me start correctly, and finished another that may or may not be right. (It probably isn’t since I changed the sign of a number to make the verification true, which you’re apparently not allowed to do. So much for being creative.) I felt like an idiot. It wouldn’t make sense no matter how hard I tried. I know that the problems are doable, and they make sense when other people solve them, I’m just clueless when I do them on my own.

But I am going to figure them out. There has got to be some secret that will make this all make sense, and I am going to find it. I’ve watched all the Khan Academy videos, and I’m going to go in to get help tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes, but I refused to be defeated by something as simple as trigonometry.

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4 thoughts on “In Which Ella Declares Her Love for the Idea of Math and Gets Defeated by Trig Identities

  1. Pingback: Is the Muffler Supposed to Be Hanging That Low? | Eleanor Called Ella

  2. Pingback: In Which Ella Uses Her Head As A Battering Ram | Eleanor Called Ella

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