Thursday, September 27, 2007


Math has never been my strong suit.

Well, I was in accelerated math all through high school, which ended after my junior year when I elected not to take a math my senior year. So I haven't had a real math class since 1999.

I did take approximately a month of elementary calculus in my first semester at UK. I dropped it when it became quite clear to me that I would probably fail if I stayed in. I still don't know what a derivative is. Unfortunately, without calc, I was supposed to go back and take college algebra. I decided to try to test out and just go straight into logic and statistics. I approached the math department, which sent me to the person in charge of the bypass exams --- MY CALC TEACHER!

He was amazingly nice and allowed me to bypass my bypass exam because of my time in calc. That was very exciting. So I took logic (not math, just like geometry proofs -- loved it) and then I took statistics. Which was ridiculous. My teacher was a lunatic, and very funny, but there was not much math done in the class.

So I really haven't been a math person in about 9 years.

Cue graduate school. Now, I am in a JOURNALISM program. There's very little math in journalism, not because there shouldn't be, but because the majority of us loathe math and avoid it. I mean, the business people do money math sometimes, but I tried never to do it.

Thus, I didn't expect this grad program to have much math. Now, I saw on the course list there was a little required class for PhD students called "quantitative methods for mass communications research" or something like that. But I'm not a PhD, so I wasn't going to worry about it.

Last night, we read a chapter that had more equations than I've seen in awhile! My intro to research methods class is currently looking at correlations and statistical probabilities. I had homework problems. I had to find a calculator with a square root! It was madness. It seems that I did get the problem correct, so that gives me some extra confidence. But then my teacher started saying something that sounded like:

"Social science researchers often look at correlations of .5 and say they're good. We then ask them to use the r-squared equation to determine the variance of the prediction."

I was very confused. I blurted out, "I'm sorry, I have no idea what that means."

Everyone started laughing. I think some of them were secretly glad I asked, though.

He explained and then told us that obviously some of the readings contained information about high-level statistics. He doesn't want us to be able to DO them (sigh of relief here), just to be AWARE of them. Thank goodness.

So, strong suit or not, it appears that I will have to do some math. It's no secret that I designed my research project to involve as little math as possible (although since I'm not really sure how to do my research project, that could change!). More on that later.

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