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I hate calculus. It lies somewhere between mayonnaise and cancer on my hate list. And believe me–I hate mayonnaise. Yet, as I learned some time ago, to graduate from CMC I’d eventually have to endure a semester of derivatives that would ultimately pluck petals from my GPA. Calculus loves-me-not. Now, I understand I am preaching fire to forests–the most popular major at CMC is based on mathematics. However, to students like myself, the Psych / Film Studies type, calculus is equivalent to monopoly money in the real world. Why then, I ask, is calculus a general education requirement for all CMC students?

Some might argue the same coulcalculusd be said for philosophy or literature. “I am an econ major, why in Muhammad’s name do I need to learn about Locke’s philosophies?” Sure, there are classes one might claim to be irrelevant to their future career(s), but even so, what we learn in those classes has more to do with the advancement of students as academics. They enhance our writing, speaking, reading, and interpretation skills so as professionals, our talents are more refined than the average job applicant. My beef is this: I don’t think calculus improves any of those areas.

In my spring ‘09 calculus class, professor Lenny Fukshansky often promoted the application of calculus as, “useful to everyone.” I wish to debate this statement, for as I sit and write this article, I cannot conceive of a circumstance in which finding the tangent line of f(x) might help me accomplish any task. Of course calculus is used in many facets of our society, and those are areas I am grateful other individuals have decided to make important to their future livelihood. One class of calculus isn’t going to get me too far as an engineer anyway.

I am not saying that mathematics has no place in general education requirements, just that there must be another aspect of math that has a wider range of use for all students. What about accounting or personal finance? How many people are planning on making a ton of money? Sheeet, me. And how many already have credit card debt? Me too. Essentially, I want every class I take to be beneficial towards my goals in the post-graduate real world, and calculus doesn’t make the cut.

13 COMMENTS

  1. I think calculus does fall under the list of classes that “enhance our writing, speaking, reading, and interpretation skills.”

    As a psych major, if you ever have to do some kind of statistical analysis, calculus can come into play. It’s also just good to know about derivatives if you ever want to lie tangent to someone’s curve,,,

    But seriously, it can be useful in some way a long time from now. Also, many jobs want to see that you have some quantitative ability, so doing well in calc is useful.

    PS I failed calculus in HS. FML.

  2. I think calculus does fall under the list of classes that “enhance our writing, speaking, reading, and interpretation skills.”

    As a psych major, if you ever have to do some kind of statistical analysis, calculus can come into play. It’s also just good to know about derivatives if you ever want to lie tangent to someone’s curve,,,

    But seriously, it can be useful in some way a long time from now. Also, many jobs want to see that you have some quantitative ability, so doing well in calc is useful.

    PS I failed calculus in HS. FML.

  3. “They [GEs] enhance our writing, speaking, reading, and interpretation skills so as professionals, our talents are more refined than the average job applicant.”

    I’d say we take a less careerist justification of GEs, and see them instead as mandated classes that serve the two essential functions of a liberal arts college: broadening our intellectual tastes and sharpening our analytical abilities. Most of the skills you mentioned–writing, reading, and interpretation–come from being able to think critically, to analyze a block of text and respond intelligently. (Speaking is a parlor trick, like juggling, best learned from tapes or YouTube clips.)

    It’s a balancing act, though, with some GEs offering more broadening (FHS or Lit 10) and others more analysis (Econ 50 or Gov20), and I’d say a good GE should make you not only know more but also think better. Accordingly, there is no more essential GE than Calculus. Take a step back and consider what calculus–that derivative or that tangent–really is. It’s not inane number-crunching or vapid rule memorization (read: it’s not accounting or finance). It’s the science of relationships. It’s the process of picking apart a situation to find its cause (derivative) and effect (integral). It’s analysis, pure if not simple.

    Consider those dreaded word problems. So maybe you won’t ever be an engineer and have to figure out how fast water pours out of one lake into another. But focus less on the particularities and more on the process. You had to read the text, isolate the relevant information, construct a model, and–using the rules you’ve been trained in–produce an answer. I don’t care what you do, run a business, make movies, or provide therapy, those are all things you all will have to do.

    So maybe on the surface, it doesn’t seem like Calculus will be “beneficial towards my goals in the post-graduate real world,” but you’re forgetting why we take the derivative: you have to see what’s happening beneath the surface.

    • My Dear Editor Abhi,

      Next time you are going to make me look like an idiot can you please try to do it before you post the article. I fully appreciate rationality, help me out when it is not being met. Not mad, just feel like a silly boy. Still feel sexy though.

      Much Love,

      Alex

  4. “They [GEs] enhance our writing, speaking, reading, and interpretation skills so as professionals, our talents are more refined than the average job applicant.”

    I’d say we take a less careerist justification of GEs, and see them instead as mandated classes that serve the two essential functions of a liberal arts college: broadening our intellectual tastes and sharpening our analytical abilities. Most of the skills you mentioned–writing, reading, and interpretation–come from being able to think critically, to analyze a block of text and respond intelligently. (Speaking is a parlor trick, like juggling, best learned from tapes or YouTube clips.)

    It’s a balancing act, though, with some GEs offering more broadening (FHS or Lit 10) and others more analysis (Econ 50 or Gov20), and I’d say a good GE should make you not only know more but also think better. Accordingly, there is no more essential GE than Calculus. Take a step back and consider what calculus–that derivative or that tangent–really is. It’s not inane number-crunching or vapid rule memorization (read: it’s not accounting or finance). It’s the science of relationships. It’s the process of picking apart a situation to find its cause (derivative) and effect (integral). It’s analysis, pure if not simple.

    Consider those dreaded word problems. So maybe you won’t ever be an engineer and have to figure out how fast water pours out of one lake into another. But focus less on the particularities and more on the process. You had to read the text, isolate the relevant information, construct a model, and–using the rules you’ve been trained in–produce an answer. I don’t care what you do, run a business, make movies, or provide therapy, those are all things you all will have to do.

    So maybe on the surface, it doesn’t seem like Calculus will be “beneficial towards my goals in the post-graduate real world,” but you’re forgetting why we take the derivative: you have to see what’s happening beneath the surface.

    • My Dear Editor Abhi,

      Next time you are going to make me look like an idiot can you please try to do it before you post the article. I fully appreciate rationality, help me out when it is not being met. Not mad, just feel like a silly boy. Still feel sexy though.

      Much Love,

      Alex

  5. cmon now amitch… how can you hate on calc!

    I think the application of math is beyond the numbers. Its more the problem solving and creating a solution from an issue. I know there arent many proofs in calc, but that is the art of math. Much like an essay, a proof is a stream of logical statements that proves something. I think theres alot to be said about that in the real world. anyways thats my 2 cents.

    back to relaxation before i get my butt kicked in nyc.

    • How can I not, first C of my life. You should check the application of my foot up your ass. What’s the real world probability of that happening? I’d say high.

      Miss you buddy

  6. cmon now amitch… how can you hate on calc!

    I think the application of math is beyond the numbers. Its more the problem solving and creating a solution from an issue. I know there arent many proofs in calc, but that is the art of math. Much like an essay, a proof is a stream of logical statements that proves something. I think theres alot to be said about that in the real world. anyways thats my 2 cents.

    back to relaxation before i get my butt kicked in nyc.

    • How can I not, first C of my life. You should check the application of my foot up your ass. What’s the real world probability of that happening? I’d say high.

      Miss you buddy

  7. I’ve taken tons of math, and I’ve got to say that calculus is probably the most beautiful subject in the world. It combines algebra, geometry, trigonometry…and simple arithmetic to explain so much…

    wish you could’ve liked it as much as i did 🙂

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