I graduated college in December of 2005, but my last math class was a year and a half earlier when I took Calculus III over the first summer 2004 term. As of the time of this writing that is just over 16 years, 7 months since I’ve last used a large portion of what I learned in Calculus III.
To add to the dynamic, this was a summer term. Every university does it differently, but at my alma mater this meant that a course that was normally taught over the duration of 15 weeks is condensed to just 4 weeks! Did I mention where math was never a subject I deeply enjoyed?
I passed – barely – but it’s safe to say that a large portion of my undergraduate education in mathematics has probably been lost. Like any muscle, our brains are only strong when exercised, and due to the nature of my work, and hobbies, large portions of calculus just simply don’t come up. I’ve forgotten how to integrate a function, or how to find a derivative – oddly enough I still remember limits, and things like matrices and portions of linear algebra do get regular use.
From discussing math with my wife – we actually met in Linear Algebra – the other week, we started discussing Khan Academy. I’ve heard of Khan Academy, but had never looked into it any. Apparently they have a whole wealth of well constructed lessons on a variety of topics, math included. So, I started relearning all the concepts I’d forgotten.
I started with Calculus I, and things went well enough until about a third of the way through the course when I realized I’d forgotten a few elements from trigonometry, a course I haven’t studied since high school – I mean, did you remember that sin(x)^2 + cox(x)^2 = 1?
Thankfully Khan Academy makes it very easy to bounce around, and pick up any missing bits of knowledge.
I am in awe of this resource. Perhaps I’m sounding old, but anybody who is in college these days has no idea how much easier their studies are because of resources like this. Had something like this existed when I was in college, undoubtedly I’d done a lot better. The ability to easily refresh awkward holes in my knowledge is beyond amazing.