Sunday, February 27, 2011

Math is Hell

I tried to chew through three chapters of Statistics this weekend. Two were due last night-I finished 1.5 of them over the course of 8 hours. The third is due next Saturday, but I've got to be at a conference in Cambridge next Saturday, so I thought I'd do the homework today. Alas no.

Statistics can't be that hard to learn (I tell myself) Biology majors Psychology majors and Business majors have to learn it. My Dad used to teach it and he is not particularly mathematically savvy. He knows Stats because he's a retired psychologist but the only math I've ever seen him use is trigonometry when he was building something.

My last stats post was me whining about them not making us do the math. This post is about them presenting the math, without explanation.

The first chapter I had to chew through was about probability, but it was really about logic. X and Y or X or Y. Given X how many Y? That was easy for me. I've spent the past several years screwing around with Excel, Access and SQL and writing reports that would tell my employer how many of his clients were lawyers with cats.

The second chapter was on binomial sequences. I still don't get that. The third chapter is on math in normal distributions. And they've been messing with my already defined Greek letters.

Sigma to me, always means "Sum" (that--according to my high school calculus teacher--is why the integral sign looks like an S that has been in Mr. Wonka's taffy puller.) But lower cased sigma, apparently means standard distribution. I can live with that--I've had a few glasses of Six Sigma coolaid. But then, mu doesn't mean "micro" (it means mean) and pi doesn't mean 3.14159 it means probability. Oh, sorry--it means 3.14159 in one equasion but not all the time. And they threw e in there-just for fun. And they threw a lambda in.

I get the concept of choosing a Greek letter to mean something--think of it as mapping a logical drive and setting a login script that maps all the drives the same for all the PCs in the environment. Everybody knows that Pi= 3.14159. Everybody (and every computer) knows that your Q drive is where they should store Morningstar reports (or or timesheets or pictures of their cats.) That's the point of defining something-so that everyone knows what to do with it.

By redefining the Greek letters that already had definitions in my brain my Statistics text has made it even harder to learn whatever they're trying to teach me. I'm sure the Powers that be (for Statistics) had a very good reason for redefining my already mapped Greek letters but what next? Does Delta no longer mean change? Are they going to tell me that F<>=MA?

I look at the equtions and even the work-through of the equations and I feel like a dyslexic person must feel when asked to deal with Anna Karenina. I can handle math-but not without a human instructor or some helpful narritive to explain it all.

Or, in Math I am like some kid from a villiage in midieval europe who learned a few precepts about religion from the villiage priest. I hold fast to the few things I know and they do not jibe well with what I am expected to learn.

I am afraid. And no,it doesn't help that it snowed more today.

1 comment:

dtm said...

Ouch. I'm sorry I didn't see this when you posted it (work has been really hectic the past two weeks). Not that I could directly have helped you in time - since I think you're right and you do need an in-person, human instructor - but I could have maybe offered timely encouragement.

I can tell you're really stressed out from your typos. You clearly weren't feeling yourself when you wrote this.