Thursday, February 9, 2012

Really Getting Back to Basics

The SICP Wizard
With my interest in SICP and programming I've decided to really get back to the basics. Mathematics!

My lack of critical math skills intertwines why it has taken so long to get into programming professionally and why this endeavor remains such a challenge. I dabbled with BASIC when I was 12, had a fleeting interest in Assembly, checked out Pascal, yet to my dismay the youthful curiosity I exhibited became an itch, which would fester and burn into my soul throughout my early adult life. My programming pipe dream turned a reality when the opportunity of a lifetime presented itself for me to pursue this passion and learn on the job. Released from the rut I had worn with time spent in systems administration, I was free to fly to creative heights not yet envisioned.

Programming was not something I studied much in school. I did take a semester of C, twice in fact due to low grades, but it was my failure to attain above a high enough average in my college pre-calculus class, which barred me from getting into the computer science program. This is the story I would tell people why I had become derailed from programming professionally for so many years when I had such early potential. Time for me to stop spinning this deterministic tale and choose a new reality!

I'm not slow to learn, but math and programming knowledge don't come easy. I've wondered about this and am have come to the conclusion that I'm missing some key stones in my foundation. There is a reason that universities have mathematics prerequisite for computer science student. While an argument can be made that you don't need to know much math to program, it really does help, particularly if you there are intuitive blocks in understanding or you try to tackle something like SICP. I believe to have found the key to my trouble, why programming has been such a tough journey aside from the fact that I'm passionate about it. This time around I've also got a few tricks up my sleeve, which will add momentum and keep things lively.

Khan Academy's Math Topics
A thirst yearns in my belly to learn about calculus and linear algebra, to go beyond what I had the chance to study in school. I plan to spend 3 months watching Khan Academy's videos on their multitude of arithmetic topics. I'm thinking of the whole endeavor as a big time-box! I seek an intuitive, pragmatic and deep understanding to unlock the mysteries of computing.

Relearning math is a wonderful gift I'm giving myself. Conviction fills me with assurance this gift will keep on giving. Conquering mathematics will  provide me with immeasurable practical benefit and psychological confidence. My excitement is not mere hyperbole. I don't just plan on reading and watching lectures, I plan on working many maths and sharing the journey with my readers!

I intend to MindMap as I cover topics to help retain what I'm learning. I plan to use Anki, a spaced repetition flashcard system, to help commit formulas and theorems to permanent memory. I will time-box to ensure I spend time on this endeavor. Learning need not create pain, it should invoke pleasure, induce passion and spur motivation. A supportive system tailored to your specific brain type can only help in this quest. Learning is hardwired into human nature. So why would so academic and professional workplaces alike  rob and unwittingly undermine our ability to indulge our minds in creative growth? As guardians of our minds we must grab hold the reins and till our mental soil, keeping the synapses fertile for growth!

Few adults regard learning as an enjoyable past time, however, children instinctively know how to learn with fun. Fun things are easy. Learning produces a joie de vivre, stirring passion and igniting creativity from a intimately human place deep within each of us. When you indulge in your passions success becomes a snowball, building to an avalanche. Utilize tools which work leverage how you think. Continually search for new ways to keep learning fun. Start today and it will never be too late.

I'z gonna eat maths for breakfast!
The BetterExplained blog writes an intriguing series of articles with a philosophical bent on "intuitive teaching". Human intuition contains immense raw power. Think about the great brains before us, who walked those first steps onto a moonscape of problems and brought light to bear where there was none. Their experiential forays into uncharted territories are rich for our emulation and study. Let us drink from the cup of intuition, the shared consciousness from which the giants of our collective pasts tapped.

With a strong footing in mathematics rising on my horizon, I humble the thought that I might dip into the wizards goblet of wisdom and help others pursue their dreams banishing frustration and building fun!

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