Friday, April 09, 2010

Back to School

I started taking classes at North Seattle Community College a few days into January this year. I took some classes when I was in New York, but they were more vocational; this time felt different. Anyway, I did pretty well throughout the quarter but finals still made me nervous. They were all more-or-less comprehensive, and I didn't realize quite how much material each of my classes covered until I started reviewing.

Physics I is part of a three-part series, but it's actually a logical selection of material. The focus is on Newtonian physics, and apart from a look at gravity, it all takes place in the inertial frame and deals with things sized somewhere in between a pea and an ocean liner. That made the final relatively easy to study for, since there was very little material that we studied early in the course and then stopped using. Of course, actually taking my physics final was a little but of a "worst case" experience for me - I forgot to take my book, and then brought out my old test notes page instead of the new one I made. It can't have been that bad, since I still got a 4.0 in that class.

Chemistry was a harder final to prepare for. That course covered a lot of material, and it didn't necessarily build in a logical way. So I had some reviewing to do. However, multiple-guess tests are never that difficult for me. I got a 4.0 in that class too.

My math class is my token sub-4.0 grade, a 3.6. I don't quite know what that means, but I'm satisfied with it. Differential Equations are very difficult. I think that calculus takes a much higher degree of problem solving ability than anything that comes before, and differential equations reincorporate a lot of more difficult parts of algebra too. I don't know how I did on the final itself, but I messed myself up a little in how I studied for it.

At the end of the course, we studied the Laplace Transform. It's difficult, but it's seductively close to being a "magic bullet" that solves all differential equations problems. A lot of the harder stuff from earlier in the course can't be solved with it, though, and a lot of that showed up on the final. Another problem I had was that my teacher said that all problem solving methods would be either our choice or sometimes required to be the Laplace Transform. However, there were a few that were written as requiring different techniques, from earlier in the course, that I hadn't used in weeks. I can't have done that badly, but it was a terrifying test.

So one quarter down, and I've got a pretty good GPA started. This quarter, I'm taking more chemistry and more physics and unfortunately couldn't fit in a third course - the only one at NSCC this spring that I need and have the prerequisites to take is linear algebra, and it conflicted with physics on Fridays. Of course, physics has a lab on Friday and linear algebra has a quiz, so I can't skip either course.

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