Pet Rocks and Mathematics

I have never been inclined to study Mathematics; in fact, I’ve found the entire notion offensive. At one point in my life, if both you and I were in a bar together and you suggested that we “go learn some math,” I wouldn’t even finish my bourbon before punching you in the nose. Alright, maybe I’d finish the bourbon first. It’s my blog and I can embellish if I want to.

Joking aside, I had bought into the idea that Math was only for those gifted in Math. This circular reasoning  was so deeply ingrained in my psyche that after the last obligatory Algebra class in High school, I never looked back. It wasn’t until I was encouraged to read philosophy that I started to learn the real application of mathematics: as a system of critical thinking. Math, was going to help me understand how to think, it was going to help me understand how others think, and it was going to help me, as a Military Officer, figure out how to kill a pet rock. (Pet rocks being “ill conceived and awful ideas” floated in meeting). It wouldn’t be until a much later time that I understand how integral Mathematics is to making things. This revelation, as well as the encouragement of others augmented with funding from JWAC, prompted me to take my first math class in over over a decade: College Trigonometry.  

To keep the story concise, I did well in Trig and find real world applications for the subject everywhere I look, especially within the maker movement. Again, to keep the story short, College Trigonometry is now over and Calculus I is starting; as such, I have decided to add Calculus as a topic in this Blog. I’ve learned enough from the trig course that I can expect what it is coming in Calculus I, however, the trouble that I am deeply mired in, is how to write something engaging about a Calculus concept learned or a Calculus concept applied. It is Calculus after all, and there are, according to the textbook, only two questions that Calculus broadly answers. “What is the rate of change of the velocity of an eccentric professor on a bicycle?” and “What is the area of that Amoeba over there?” I’ll add one to the mix “What is the rate of change from bad to worse of a pet rock?” Though this falls into the realm of the first question…

I have my work cut out for me. As an indicator of this, take the following conversation I had with a coworker during a break from rowing Caesar’s trireme:


Me: “I don’t know how to write about Calculus. I mean, I want whatever I post to be technical so I can further my own understanding, but I also want someone who doesn’t give a shit about it to enjoy the post as well.”

Co-worker: “Well, you can always write about the real world applications of the Calculus concepts that you learn.”

Me: “…….”

Co-worker: “Or… you can always write about how hard it is to make writing about Calculus technical AND whimsical”.

Me: “Inspired. I’ll do that AND keep saying the words “pet rock”.


It certainly is difficult  to pen musings about Calculus that are both technical and whimsical, especially considering that these musings should be in a maker/military context, but, that is exactly what I am going to do (or at least try to do).  In the near future, I’ll be sure and tag all Calculus related posts for those that still cling to the notion that Math is only for those gifted in Math; so undesirable content can be avoided. Consider though, that if we eliminate the notion that Math is only for those gifted in Math, then there should be something desirable for everyone. Hell, If a website called “Math is Fun” can survive without being laughed off of the internet, then I should be able to do…something.

This is starting the to draw out and needs to come to a close;  I know this because I’ve mentioned “pet rock” five times now. So here comes the Calculus and the knuckle-dragger blogging about it. Whether you are a nerdy engineer who giggles at pi jokes, or a military grunt trying to explain to your boss why his pet rock should die in a fire (respectfully of course) then this topic is for you (us). ❤




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