Jun 042015

Barbie may have said that math is hard, but Barbie was wrong.  With good teachers it isn’t very hard at all, and my high school calculus teacher was a great teacher.

Anyway, at the end of the year she asked all of us to write a letter to the incoming class next year so that they’d have some idea of what to expect and some suggestions for them as to how to best get through the class.  However, needing to do everything in my own idiom, as per usual… instead of a letter, my friend Amanda and I decided to write a poem instead.  The teacher liked it so much she had us record it, and I understand that she played it for incoming classes for several years to come.

It was also one of the first things I’d ever posted on the web, on my first site that seems to no longer be live.  But clearly other people like it, and it’s been interesting to see evidence of other math teachers using it in their classes.  So to help make our lovely poem available to generations of calculus students to come, I thought I’d cross-post it here.  Enjoy!

Calculus Advice Poem

To whom it may concern,
If it is calculus that you will learn,
Take heed of our advice,
We hope it will suffice.

First some things you’ll need to know,
(If you don’t, well, we told you so)
Know your algebra very well
Or your life will be a living hell.

Absolute values may look silly, ’tis true,
But unless you know them you won’t have a clue.
Geometry will come back to haunt you;
Know it or else this class will daunt you.

Know about functions in relation to sets
(A good thing to know for blondes and brunettes).
A silly rhyme but what else is new?
Now here’s more you’ll need to review.

Do not think as asinine
Tangent, cotangent, and cosine.
And do not dismiss it as incidental
When you study a transcendental.

If you don’t remember log and ln
Oh what trouble you’ll be in.
And though derivatives may seem quite grim,
If you don’t know them you’ll be out on a lim.

Be prepared to understand integrals
(Calculating area within intervals).
Later in the year you’ll learn the rest
Of what you should know for the AP test.

And now as we are nearing the end
There’s one last thing we will recommend:
When concepts become a little muddy
It’s good to study with a learning buddy.

This is all we have to say.
We hope you have a nice day.
Though poorly written, this poem’s no lie;
From Cathy and Amanda, good luck and good-bye.

(By Cathy Gellis and Amanda O’Connor at the end of Ms. Glotzer’s Calculus AB AP class, Ridgewood High School, Ridgewood, NJ, June 1992.)

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