The Harried Student Reviews Calculus

October 9, 2002

Suicidal moths pinging against my window, I read. I read again. I write it down. I invert it. I write it down inverted. I break it into phrases. I look each word up. Each one. One at a time. Like the death bent moths, one by one by one by one:

Then I realize it’s not me. Like the moths in the blackness, the words are struggling to get out of their sentences. They don’t even like each other. Like sparks rising from hell, they hiss and spit at each other in succession. They not only fail to explain what a local integral is, they endeavour to protect it from being grasped by any mind out to integrate it. Those pompous words do not teach calculus. They bury it in the area under their curve.

I open the window, letting in the moths, and scream into the bleak, British night “What do you mean we call a function singular in the region surrounding a point if its local integral diverges or vanishes with a noninteger exponent when the region of integration goes to zero”.

Instantly penitent, I look for signs of a police car, pray that no windows light up. Only misty silence greets my furtive search. Then a haughty voice whispers from the darkness, “If you order it, it will come”.

Night after night the play unfolds. I work till the wee hours. Then, the occasional fall breeze on my hot cheeks cooling my passion, drying my tears, checking my anguish, each night I bid the moon farewell, each night I hear faint whispers in the trees. He marks my leave-taking. Then I sleep disturbed, knowing the glinting cover of my current textbook, Torture through the Middle Ages: Applications of Calculu s, leers until daybreak at my supplementary study aid, Test of Calculus as a Second Language.

Finally, obsessed, pushed, driven by pompous, disjointed pebbles of arithmetic, dragged by a voice in the inky night, I go online. I order.

And so I wait. I lay awake through the night, waiting, watching the pyre of my current textbook, kindled with my supplementary study aid, now flickering, now humbled, now ashes. As the last embers die, I hear a sound as of angels. Bing bong. I wipe away the last bad memories from my hollowed cheeks, grab my housecoat, and fly down the stairs. I open the door to a glorious, clear day. Finally, blinking back the sunlight, I accept the package, wrapped in blinding white. With Visa as my saviour, I know I am avenged. I pull back whitest paper, and cry tears of joy as I read: Calculus for Dummies, specially packaged with the paperback workbook Forgotten Calculus.

Audrey is a distance ed maven and part-time writer living in the United Kingdom. She is finishing her last year of an honours Master of Health Science degree, in preparation for a distance ed PhD in how to get a distance ed PhD. A mother of four, she sporadically sleeps, is in love with fractal math, and has found peace where neuroscience and Java programming meet.