Bats still says 'Math is hard'
Just handed in an assignment today that I've been stressing over for about the past two weeks.. basically, since it was handed out. The majority of the stress was that over that time, I've been travelling for ten days (SF Bay Area and Chicago), and most of the time after the first trip was taken up preparing for the work in the second one. In essence, we were given two weeks, and I pretty much had a day and a half to do it.
Starting the assignment was pretty bad. As in "I am way out of my league and have no clue how to get started on this" bad. (i.e., how the hell do you derivatives on summations?). A couple of attempts at beating on the problem resulted in wasted ink, slain trees, zero progress, and a full-fledged panic attack. Kinda made me wonder why I decided that this going back to school thing was a good idea.
However, being old and bitter, I've found that cleverness and lack of scruples has crept in as compensation. Looking at the Horrible Problem, I figured that we were being asked to prove the formulas for the least squares curve fit. I Googled "least squares derivation"--which magically provided this page on Wolfram's website on Least Squares Fitting, which had the whole derivation spelled out. Google to the rescue, baby. This might be considered an example of how the web is making us collectively dumber, because it feels like there's less need to store information locally (read: brain), but that's a discussion for another time.
Also, while beating on other parts of the problem set, I stumbled across Calc101.com, which has a basic solver in a web interface (powered by WebMathematica). It was pretty useful, and I have the feeling I'm going to be relying on it whenever math comes up, along with my CRC.
Despite these crutches, the whole experience was pretty unpleasant. All those familiar feelings from undergrad days--looking at dizzying pages of the textbook, knowing "the answer is in here somewhere, but I'm too stupid and/or lazy to extract it."
On the other hand, I actually got enough of a grasp of some of the other problems to help out the other members of my grad group. I even had an "ah, that's the trick" moment that I shared with the others to help them solve the problem.
Well, hopefully I'll be able to budget time out more reasonably for the next assignment. November will be a beat-down (need to complete another assignment, a lab or two, and the term research project/report/presentation). But at least this means that I essentially have all of December off--see all you Boston folks then!