Home | Jeremy Côté
Bits, ink, particles, and words.
When I look at a student who knows what they’re doing while solving a physics or mathematics problem versus someone who has no clue what they are doing, there’s an enormous difference in their confidence. The former can usually zero-in on the objective of the problem and knows the strategy needed to tackle it while the latter will try to remember useful formulas or try to do something more or less random.
When I was in secondary school, I really hated going to French class (I still wouldn’t particularly enjoy it). It wasn’t that the teacher was horrible or anything. Instead, it was simply because I didn’t like taking language classes other than English. I really excelled in English, and the huge chasm in my abilities in French versus English weren’t something I liked being reminded of. In English, not only was I well read and could write, I could also speak well. Conversely, speaking was my weakest link in French. It’s frustrating being able to know all the words that you want to say in your head (and even being able to think them), but not be able to actually express them. As such, I didn’t participate in class at all, preferring to only listen.
If I gave a problem to one of my friends who aren’t in physics or mathematics, they’d probably say that it’s way too complicated for them to solve. What’s amazing to me though, is how they are so often wrong about that assumption. Truthfully, many of the problems that I tackle at school (not actual scientific problems) are relatively easy and just require transforming the problem. What I mean by this is that our first line of attack for a new situation is to try and transform it into an old situation that we know how to do.
One of the most difficult things for me to do when I am learning is to make the conceptual leap from one idea to the next. Often, I’m not confused about how to do a problem. Rather, I’m stuck on an idea that preceded it which I am not fully on board with.