Pre-planning for possible calculus course

So I heard Vox is expanding his repertoire of advanced education resources and I noted I could potentially do a couple of courses in Calc. Then I realized, hang on, I don’t need no stinking permission. Why, it’s current year people. A person could just up and do that sort of thing if they were so inclined.

Also seems like a CONSCIENTIOUS sorta thing to do, don’t it? :-) (I’m starting to hate that word.) Might even get a job that way, it’s more likely than what I’m doing right now.

Anyway, I figure such a course has gotta be extremely high-quality, it’s gotta be information-dense, it’s gotta exercise a great deal of discernment, and it’s gotta include holistic reasoning and jokes. Why such standards? Well, there are two reasons.

First, I expect the intended audience is the sort who would rather watch a fifteen-minute, information-dense video multiple times, rather than plod through the hour-long, For-Dummies presentation. This is where the jokes and holistic reasoning come in most prominently, to encourage such re-engagement and also impulsive reflection on the videos. If a person thinks back on a funny moment from the video, they’re strengthening the associated mental pathways (via mental rehearsal), which can be harnessed for skill-building. It’s the best sort of free practice time.

The second reason is explained by the guy:

Why did I go to all of this work? The answer is that I wrote
it because of my deep dissatisfaction with most mathematical
exposition. I think most mathematical exposition is poor. How
best to present ideas calls for a considerable amount of
sense and judgment. This represents my attempts to the job
the way I think it ought to be done.

Amen brother.

There are going to be some technology details that need to be worked through. I figure the best way to work through them is to post, as a first video or two, a brief FAQ on the technology I’m going to be using (Mathematica, Geogebra, etc.) and maybe a tidbit on my practical philosophy for this endeavor. This will also give me some practice in going from loose ideas -> show notes -> presentation and lecture. Since I’ve never done the YouTubez before, I expect that when the camera turns on I’ll be hit with the same question that plagues physics students putting pencil to paper on an exam: “Where do I even start?” Might as well get used to that with a couple of practice videos. Plus, it’ll help me to estimate the rate of time expenditure per week(?), which I expect to be considerable.

Going back to the issue of audience for a moment, I figure there are two reasons for learning calculus: 1) to solve a class of physics problems, and 2) to show off how smart and wonderful you are. Now, since nobody except Isaac Newton ever knew what calculus was about before they stumbled into the classroom, we’re going to assume the audience falls into group two. Not that there’s anything wrong with that :-). I figure that’s a potential source of engagement to be harnessed, by letting it be known that I’m treating submitted problem sets as an IQ test. (Even I can write an HTML form.)

The structure of the course will be heavily influenced by reason number one, and I expect to allude heavily to odometers and speedometers. My intuition says car speed is the most accessible application of calculus ideas at all levels of experience.

More thoughts on this later tonight (I think).

About Aeoli Pera

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19 Responses to Pre-planning for possible calculus course

  1. Jdc says:

    It seems that most large corporations now are basically developing Ai and becoming Ai companies. I’ve been researching and thinking about this for the last few days. All other products that the company produces are secondary to the intelligence gathering that enables the Ai to remain competitive against rival corporations.

    If you could learning coding and machine learning with your math degree along with calculus you could be looking at quite a lucrative career. Statistics are also heavily in demand in this sort of field. To facilitate ease of use of the internet and enable as many people as possible to use it, it seems that most companies are starting to give their products away for free. Examples include all the tools that Google gives out for free, Facebook and recently the open sourcing of Microsoft’s .NET platform.

    Ai is the future. All significant companies will now require it. I’m not sure whether to start researching neural net technologies etc myself or keep developing traditional CRUD applications/websites.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      AI and genetics. I’ll look into this, thanks. But I expect they’re looking for top-flight talent, whereas I’m more like third-from-top-flight talent.

      • Jdc says:

        Yeah, I do too. I just turned 30 this year. I am a lot like you, have a degree from a third rate college, I’ve worked in corporations but never enjoyed it and never kept a job long, drummed out on a pretense like Tex talked about.

        I also work part time and barely scrape by. On the plus side I do have a lot of time on my hands for development. Most people I’ve worked with though either lack the motivation or talent to build anything and it’s only recently I’ve learned to work on my own and have the confidence to not need anyone else. I know a few languages but have mostly just helped out on small, open source projects.

        I think we’re both at the stage almost where if we want something we’re going to have to work at it ourselves. I’m an IT generalist really, don’t really excel at any one task, everything from front end to system administration but my knowledge is shallow, mostly gained from not working on teams. The trouble seems to be finding original ideas and having the resources to develop them. There’s a lot of ready built tools out there such as Apache Hadoop for parallel processing and open source Ai however I’m not sure whether to start learning Ai and hook it into some type of web scraper or app, or work on front end technology like you’re doing.

        As for genetics it sounds interesting but you’d probably require top-tier qualifications and it would potentially take years of study in the medical fields. You’d also need a lot of specialized lab equipment which sounds expensive. Unless you could go and work for one of the companies, perhaps as a data analyst?

      • Jdc says:

        Stack overflow careers seems to have js developer jobs but they’re mostly for seniors. Getting your foot in the door is quite difficult unless you already have a collection of code on say github.

        • Aeoli Pera says:

          This is why I tell people it would take six months or so of dedicated work.

        • There’s plenty of shops looking to hire junior devs. But they don’t advertise on code-hipster listings, obviously.

          I don’t know how it works in the US, but here in Sweden I would look at 1) the government’s job site and 2) the various companies whose business model is “hire dev for paltry wage, rent them out, make good money off the difference”. There’s tons of those here, since it’s a good business model.

          Granted, it’s always going to be tough to get that first job. But once you’re in, it gets easier.

          • One more thing: I would build my Linkedin profile. Start adding recruiters (never mind that you never met them). Then scan through their friends and add more.

            The website prevents you from doing this, but the mobile app doesn’t.

            Once you have a few hundred friends, mostly recruiters, they’ll start spamming you with opportunities. Remember, those people are desperate to make a quick buck. For a junior dev, they provide the crucial service of having a third party vouch for (and hype up) your competence (notwithstanding that they don’t really know much about tech).

  2. Heaviside says:

    Are you going to use a textbook?

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      Yeah, probably a couple of them. Especially for exercises, I don’t see the point in wasting time to design exercises.

      The problem here is I want to follow the anti-dummies philosophy, and that textbook doesn’t exist.

      Anyway, I’ve decided on an early edition of James Stewart’s book. It’s cheap, polished, and it’s what I know best. Probably will take some explanations from the For Dummies book.

      This is all assuming I don’t get kicked out, I’m in the danger zone again.

      • Heaviside says:

        Books to consider:

        Apostol’s Calculus (I remember it as having clear explanations)
        Lang’s A First Course in Calculus (don’t know but his other books are good)

        On the other hand, if you want to wreak havoc you could use A Radical Approach to Real Analysis or Advanced Calculus a Differential Forms Approach.

        Also you should give your students links to libgen and bookzz.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      I take it back, it looks like they’ve moved heaven and earth to keep cheap versions off of Kindle. Will probably pick something from

  3. This is all well and good, as long as the “become JS employable at $20/h” project is still going strong?

    Is it?

    In order to be an optimal thard, I’ve found, it’s necessary to deal with the lower rungs of Maslow’s pyramid. Call it being neurotypically commonsensical at the lower levels in order to be maximum thardical where it matters.

    • Not saying it’s a bad idea. Just be sure to take some pre-orders, things like that.

      Get people to open their wallets before spending weeks building a course.

      That’s the melon thing to do :)

  4. purpletigerbot says:

    Aeoli have you thought of doing a discrete math course? There seems to be a lack of good intro courses and there are no middle range textbooks. There are either full blown reference types textbooks like Knuth’s and Rosen’s or unrigorous dummies sort of books. I’d imagine there is a market for a semi-rigorous applied “learn enough discrete math to be dangerous” sort of course for CS/programmer types.

    My worry with the calculus course is that market is already so saturated.

  5. Make Comments Great Again says:

    Hi Aeoli, I am interested in this course. I am nearly 30 and work with my hands. Already I can feel the toll on my body. Another 5 years of this and I want to move onto something else. I stupidly wasted my time with arts in college. Now, having worked in construction, engineering is starting to look good. At my age is it too late (I will be nearly mid 30s when I graduate if I go back to college) for engineering? I have studied some discrete math and stat and quite liked them but am not sure they have much in the way of career opportunities. Anyway, I would take your calc course. Calc is where I stopped math because it was too hard and I was immature.

    • purpletigerbot says:

      I don’t think it would be too late if you have enough construction experience and can parlay that into engineering (civil). Also, you may be able to save yourself a lot of time if you can go somewhere that allows you to transfer all your Gen Ed requirements from your first degree.

      If you are serious about this try and take the lower level math/science courses at your local CC part time for a year or two and transfer into a good 4-year program. You probably still have time to sign up for Calc I/II over the summer to get a head start (if you haven’t done math in years make sure to do a serious brush up on your algebra/trig).

      Thinking about it, if you don’t eff around you can get this done pretty quick. If you have a clear plan and can sacrifice the income to become a full-time student, you could bang out a degree in 3 years (I’d advise against overloading courses tho). Also, check out A Mind For Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra) by Barbara Oakley.

      • Aeoli Pera says:

        Good advice. He needs to talk to education advisers at the particular tech colleges and universities he’s thinking of, to get the degree planned out on a schedule and budget. That’s when he’ll know whether it’s feasible.

        I don’t know what job prospects are like for civil engineers right now. Disbelieve the hype and look at forums and job postings.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      If you’re serious, don’t wait around for me. Grab a For Dummies book (how I learned it originally) or the Great Courses video series from your library. I’m not going to rush it, regardless.

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