Archive for ‘Math’

April 7, 2014

What I Learned Last Week #11

by Janie Jones

Actually, I learned some really cool things about math during my “research” for the paper I have to write for Calculus class.  I enjoyed reading books on math much more than I ever enjoyed actually “doing” math.  I amassed enough interesting ideas to write several papers, but alas, I don’t have time to follow up on all these topics, so in true harried student style, I picked the one easiest to follow and threw some words on a page.

You know what else I learned?  It’s really, really hard to write anything good when you are limited to 600-700 words.  That’s about 2 and a third pages double spaced with the format requirements given.  Just giving proper transitions to citations eats up a lot of space, and leaves you with very little real estate to do much beyond a lame book report.  As much as I don’t have time to write a lengthier paper, it just seems so half-assed it’s like why bother.  But I remind myself, it’s worth 25 points, that’s half a test grade.

Anyway, I decided to do a very brief overview of Fibonacci Numbers and the idea that math is the “fiber of our lives” even if we don’t know it.  I am thinking of posting it after it’s been turned in, so if you should ever be interested in reading it, I’ll let you know when it’s available.

In biology we’ve moved on to study plants.  I’m not much interested in plants on a biological level, so I’m not much looking forward to the last few weeks of class.

In chemistry we had a very fortunate happenstance.  We ran out of reagent and our lab was canceled last week.  Which is awesome, because I am so woefully behind in Chem.  We have a test on Wednesday over the last 3 chapters, which I’ve only read the first and half of the second.  So, now that my math paper is written I’ll have to really devote some time to catching up and hope Calc teacher doesn’t get crazy with the Calc homework in the next few days.

And, finally in ceramics we’re down to the last 2 or 3 classes to work with wet clay.  Leif has made over 20 beautiful bowls/pots/cups.  I did manage a better showing for myself last week, but forgot to take pictures.  I have so much glazing to do now, I don’t know that I’ll have much time for making more pieces.  We will see.  And I will endeavor to remember to get pictures!

Now, I’m down to just 4 more weeks!  I can almost start the countdown in days….


March 31, 2014

What I Learned Last Week #10

by Janie Jones

Not so much what I learned, but what was confirmed:  I suck at story problems.  Calculus class spent 2 days on them last week.  I just am lacking something in my brain that is necessary to make heads or tails of them.  So, I am hoping to focus on my “research paper,” (which I don’t have a concrete topic for yet) to save my grade when it comes time to take the next test which will cover story problems among other inscrutable calculus concepts.

I also learned that Leif is a better potter than I am.  You can see and compare:


These are my pots from my 2nd time on the pottery wheel.  Now have a gander at Leif’s 2nd time on the wheel:

0325141743-00Since these photos were taken, he’s been in to the studio 2 more times and made a total of 12 additional pieces, each better than the last and thoroughly professional looking.  Now, my first 4 pots aren’t horrible, but upon close inspection one can very much tell they are clumsy and amateur.  They will suffice to get me a grade and I am relieved for that, but, they are only my first 4 pots.  I hope to improve.  So this week I have to get some more wheel throwing time and try to make a better showing for myself, even if I don’t reach Leif’s genius status.

Biology last week was filled with tests, so there was no new material to cover.

O Chem had a lab that gave some interesting solid products.  I don’t know if you can really see what is in these photos, but the first product was light and fluffy almost like snow or tiny lint fuzzies:


The second formed these interesting suspensions in the aqueous solution they precipitated from:


Don’t ask me what they are, I haven’t actually finished the lab yet, but I thought that was a little cool and exciting.

Okay, so, 10 weeks down, 6 to go.

March 28, 2014

Your suggestions would be greatly appreciated

by Janie Jones

As if Calculus hadn’t eaten enough of my life and soul already, the other day Calculus Teacher assigned a “research” paper.

Yes.  Seriously.  I have to write a paper for Calculus class.  On top of the obscene mountains of normal homework Calculus Teacher is so fond of assigning.

Thankfully, it’s not a long one, just two pages with the standard double spaced lines and 1 inch margins and 12 point font.  It’s not the writing of the paper that has me in a tizzy.  It’s coming up with a suitable topic and finding resources to “support” it.

So, I am here begging your assistance.  Any ideas about topics I could use?

It doesn’t have to be about Calculus, as long as it is related to some math subject.

In an effort to get busy, as the paper is due April 15th, I tried skimming the library data base for some ideas.  I read that there’s been some research done on using complex math as a means of helping people with severe handicaps communicate.  Apparently, just thinking about a complex math problem makes your eyes dilate.  So, for people who cannot communicate via normal means, yes and no answers can be given just by thinking of a complex equation, and for example if you ask a disabled person a question and their answer is yes, they might think of a math problem and their eyes will dilate significantly enough that the person asking the question can see the dilation and know their answer to the question asked is in the affirmative.  Very interesting.

According to this study, I must be walking around in a semi permanent state of eye dilation lately.

While this is fascinating, I don’t think there’s enough material to write on this particular article alone.  So, if you can lend me a few brain cells to come up with some topic ideas, I would be much obliged.

March 3, 2014

What I Learned Last Week #7

by Janie Jones

This past week I learned to make coil vessels in ceramics class and I made a really cool vase.


In Biology we moved on to study Annelids (segmented worms).  I dissected one:


It was pretty boring.  But I did learn some interesting factoids about various members of the Annelid phylum.

1. earthworms can eat their own weight in soil in just 24 hours

2. some species of leeches can suck up to 10 times their body weight in blood in a single feeding

3.  it can take a leech up to 6 months to digest all the blood they sucked up in a single large feeding

Gross, but fascinating.

We also studied Molluscs (the phylum containing snails, slugs, clams, octopi and the chambered nautilus).  I dissected one of those too:


Dissecting clams is even more boring than dissecting earthworms.  But, I learned that a sting from the comb snail can kill a human being.

Have you noticed that I have way more interesting factoids to share from biology class than say, oh, my calculus class?  That’s because calculus is an utterly boring obligatory duty that despite having swallowed my life is still a senseless enigma.  I go through the motions and still have no clue really what is going on.

Have you noticed that I also tend to have little to say about my Organic Chemistry class?  Well that’s also because calculus has swallowed my life.  I spent about 7 hours on calculus homework Sunday.  I spent 3 hours Saturday on biology homework and, believe it or not, 3 hours writing a paper for my ceramics class.  Yes.  That’s right.  I had to write a paper for my ceramics class.  But, the moral of this story is, poor Chemistry once again got snubbed by other homework and I have nothing interesting to say about Chemistry except that the biodiesel we made in class on Thursday smelled nothing like I thought it would.  While it was no where near the worst smelling lab we’ve performed this year, it still smelled extremely peculiar.

I am now entering my last week of class before spring break, which means I am just 45 days of class shy of being done for this semester.  Hoo-ray!!!!

February 24, 2014

What I Learned Last Week #6

by Janie Jones

Last week was a short week.  Monday was a national holiday, so no school.  Friday we got a doozy of a snow storm and the school actually shut down.  Community College NEVER shuts down, so it was shocking and I enjoyed every minute.

It is possible I may yet learn what one must do when you run out of places to put snow.  But I hope not.

So I guess I can say I learned that Hell must be frozen over before Community College closes, and Friday, despite being Hell on Earth was actually pretty wonderful.  I caught up on reading a lot of your blogs.  Sorry I’ve been so desultory a reader lately.  I hope you’ll understand, and I am really doing a lot more studying than these posts might imply…

Biology class didn’t actually meet last week, so I have nothing new to report there.

In Calculus I learned that the asymptote will come back to haunt me.  We were studying limits last week.  I get the impression that limits are the place in mathematics where being precise actually doesn’t matter, but you get so close to being precise that you sort of are.  It makes my head hurt.  But you do very little actual math with limits, it seems mostly like a logic puzzle, and if it sounds sick, twisted and wrong, I’d rather do that then actual math.

I had no O Chem lab this week, so I have no exciting explosions to report.

About the most exciting thing happening last week was I had my first ever try at the potter’s wheel.  I didn’t manage to make anything worth saving, unless one actually wants a lopsided pot.

So, hopefully this week will yield more fascinating educational trivia.

February 19, 2014

What I learned last week #5

by Janie Jones

I meant to post this Monday as I usual, but I have been having problems with WordPress over the weekend and then got crazy busy.  C’est la vie, as they say….

Things continue to plod along.

As usual, I’m tired and overwhelmed with homework, work, and life in general.  But I’m soldiering through.  And, to the casual observer, I might appear to be a woman with my poop in  a group.

For anyone keeping track besides me, we got our grades back for the calc test we had at the end of week 3.  Apparently I got the second highest grade in the class.  I was thrilled even though I later I had to wonder how bad every one else did, as I only got an 86%.  It’s totally respectable, but if that’s the 2nd highest grade a lot of people must be doing somewhat less than stellar.  I won’t let it go to my head, doubtless this is the highest grade I’ll likely get, as this first test was 90% algebra review.

In biology I learned that the Portuguese Man-Of-War is actually not a jelly fish.  It belongs to a class of invertebrate animals known as hydroids.  Interestingly, while sparing you the biology-geek details, it is not a single creature, but the whole Portuguese Man-Of-War is a colony of hydroids wherein some members take on very specific body shapes and functions to benefit the colony.

Portuguese Man-of-War, courtesy of Wikipedia,

Portuguese Man-of-War, courtesy of Wikipedia,

Because we are studying the animal phylum Cnidarians, which encompasses the class which both the Portuguese Man-of-War and the true jelly fish belong, here’s an interesting factoid about jelly fish. The largest species is called the Lion’s Mane Jelly Fish and the largest specimen known reached 7’6″ with tentacles up to 120′.

In Chemistry I learned that even though your separatory funnel containing a solution of sodium carbonate has stopped fizzing it doesn’t mean it’s stopped off gassing.  I also learned that it only takes a few seconds for the pressure to build up enough inside one’s funnel to shoot the glass stopper off and send it sailing across the lab bench to shatter on the floor.  Last week was not a good day in lab.  I also got 2/3’s of the way through my experiment and then the beaker tipped over in the water bath ruining my sample so I had to start all over again.

February 10, 2014

What I Learned Last Week #4

by Janie Jones

Last week was a big week for tests so I guess we’ll really see what I’ve learned.

In OChem I was very disappointed.  I thought I did well on the test but only managed a C.  That was a huge bummer.  But I wasn’t the lowest scoring student so I’m not totally a loser.

In Biology I kicked butt.  I got an A on both the lecture and lab portions of the exam.  Biology Teacher has a sense of humor which appeared on the exam.  We had two of the same question:

What do you call a person who specializes in the study of mushrooms?

a.  A mushroom lover.

b.  A mycologist.

c.  A fungologist.

d.  A real fun guy.

Hahaha.  Science geek humor.

I haven’t gotten the grades back from my calculus test, but at least I didn’t walk out wanting to cry.  I am hoping at least a C.  Funny how I get mad at myself for just getting a C in OChem but am relieved if I manage a C in Calc.  Life is sad and funny that way.

Ceramics class continues to be exhausting (it’s a night class and Janie don’t do nights) but fun.  Although I do have to admit to being a bit put out, my project last week was confused as a pig not by one person, but two.  It’s supposed to be Rupert:


Now, I’ve never worked with clay before this class, and I don’t claim to be a superstar artist, but I thought it looked quite like my Rupert:

misc fall 006

So I have to say ceramics class is probably the most insulting to my dog of any class I’ve ever taken.  Now I have to make another sculpture of Rupert to do him justice.  Apparently, the snout is all wrong.

I have had some “better” ceramics projects.  Nothing’s been glazed yet, but here’s some of my other accomplishments:


This is, quite clearly, Spongebob and Patrick, and not a couple of pigs.  They are actually maracas and when you shake them they make noise.  The need to make maracas is a requirement of the class.  Don’t ask.  I don’t know why.  I can only assume the successful project must demonstrate some particular clay technique proficiency.

And, this is one of my bowls.  I apparently forgot to get a picture of the other one:


Okay.  So that’s how I spent last week.