As some of you may have noticed, the world didn’t end on Wednesday like I thought it would (for the rest of you, look outside, yup it’s still there). Which means my nights spent shirking responsibility and being annoying to those around me under the guise of it having no repercussions turned out to bite me in the proverbial butt. Thus is the beginning for the tale of the midnight tool:
Having taken BC Calc AP in high school, (though not getting credit for it like I should’ve…) I figured 18.01 would be a walk in the park, I took one look at the p-set and saw that it had only like, 10 questions and blew it off all week. Now I’m claiming that part of this is the LHC’s fault for not destroying the world, but come Thursday night I didn’t feel comfortable betting on it (or betting against it really…..kind of a lose lose…) so I sat down and started the pset at 9:30p.m. What follows, friends is what is known as a rude awakening.
18.01 is much harder than BC Calc. Much much harder in fact. But what makes it so hard? it’s just maths right? Sort of.
Here at MIT, rather than work on your ability to recognize problems you already know (which, admit it, is what most high school homework is), the problems are concerned with teaching you how to think, making you understand the material presented. A handy example actually comes from my pset:
A) What I was expecting:
Chris, what is the derivative of x^2? How about x^3 + 2? Be clever! Pat yourself on the back if you got it right! You’re so smart! That girl you have a crush on thinks your ability to derive is sexy, go ahead, ask her out, she’ll say yes! Whoa hey, is that $20 lying on the floor?
Calculate the (p+q)th derivative of y=x^p(x-1)^q (or something like that) using Leibniz rule. Btw, she’ll never go out with you.
First off, in my entire course of BC Calc, never did I ever see Leibniz rule, and I’m positive it was never mentioned in lecture.
|His rules for calculus are much more effective than his rules for picking up women|
Doodling away at a billion different ways to solve it, I finally stumbled upon something key (that’s the “infinite monkeys, infinite typewriters” approach). Without getting way too mathy, the pth derivative of x^p is p!, thus, the p+q derivative is 0, because at p it’s a constant! That one idea let me clear out huge swaths of terms like some strange hybrid of Stephen Hawking and Rambo (note to self: that would be an awesome movie). I was probably a little too excited to finally figure it out, but that’s the point. I didn’t explicitly know how to solve it.
I figured it out.
MIT taught me how to think.
Unfortunately that was but 1 problem in the whole set, hence why at 6:30 a.m. this is what my work area looked like:
|From for blog|
I finished at about 7:00 a.m. which is an unpleasant feeling. I did learn some MIT vernacular though (there’s so much slang here that it could be considered it’s own language, like Klingon. Also like Klingon, it does not impress women.)
Tool- 1. v. To work tirelessly on p-sets or other tedious things.
2. n. One who works tirelessly on p-sets or other tedious things.
In summation, this place is hard, really hard. No matter how smart you think you are, it’s probably going to be different than you imagine until you finally get here. But it’s a good different, there’s a sense of achievement and fulfillment in figuring out a hard problem, and working hard is only one aspect of the popular mantra on balance here: “Work hard, play hard”.