Math Exam

 Courses emphasized topics as the theory, and problems as illustrations utilizing the theory. Our calculus textbook had a mysterious phrase on one page saying "thus it is evident that __ = __.'' Considering this an author's trick, the school "obligingly'' passed out three pages of complicated explanatory math as a topic. It practically had to be memorized and was one of the toughest, most dreaded topics, and appeared often in final exams. Incidentally, we did our class work, including exams, on wall blackboards.
   Well, I hated to memorize anything mathematical and couldn't believe that the author was such a trickster! The night before the final exam, again intrigued with this, I spent the entire time working on discovering an easy solution to the author's statement — instead of preparing for the exam. I finally got an extremely short solution, justifying my faith. I was obviously lucky — I drew this topic on my exam next morning! I raced through it filling but a few lines of one blackboard, and I called the professor over to look at my exam.
   He asked me if I needed help because I "evidently'' couldn't do the topic and thus had failed. I told him instead that I was finished and pointed to my sparsely filled blackboard. He examined it for a long time, scowled, and then proceeded to fill up four blackboards showing and explaining to me the school answer, while I protested all the while (as my later business partner would say, "but-butting around in my motor boat!''). When the prof finished, I asked him what was wrong with my answer. He said, "Not a damned thing, but look at the beauty of the math in the other answer!''
   Yes, I passed. I don't know whether they still use that infamous topic!

 John Everson '35
San Anselmo, Calif.


RPinfo

All rights reserved
© 1999 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Send comments, opinions, or questions to alum.mag@rpi.edu