Will this be on the exam?

28 Mar

Tonight I take the Final Exam for my Statistics class. Statistics involves a LOT of math, and math is HARD.

Indeed, math is why I became a lawyer (I failed my first calculus exam in 1990 and opted to take the class on a “pass/fail” basis instead of for-a-grade, which meant that I could not remain a hard science major … so, political science it was!). In fact, truth be told, “Math is the reason I became a lawyer” is a trite-but-true phrase used by many an attorney.

Math became even harder after I smashed my skull and damaged my left frontal and parietal lobes. To overcome/counteract my resulting acalculiaย (and the fact that I’m a 40-year-old student competing with a bunch of 20-somethings), I’ve had to BUST ASS all quarter.

Happily, my hard work has paid off — I presently have a 103.5% in the class. As long as I get at least 75% on the exam, I’ll get an A- ; if I get at least 85%, then I’ll walk away with a solid “A.” In theory, I don’t “need” to study at all — but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t give this “the old college try.”

This seems like an absolutely idiotic idiom to me, btw.

I mean, come on, who ever really tried while they were in college (the first time)? You know what I tried to do while I was in college (the first time)? As little as possible.

I tried to avoid classes on Mondays and Fridays and on the other days they’d better start after 10:00am. I tried to avoid reading and homework as much as possible. And there was ZERO chance that I would ever spend time doing “extra credit” work — I mean, that is SUCH A DRAG, man!

When it came time to prepare for exams, I would reliably ask: Do we have to know such-and-such for the exam? And if the answer was “No,” then you can bet your boots that I did not spend one iota of energy on that topic. Do as little as possible and hope for the best — *that* was my version of “the old college try.”

This time around, things are different.

This time around, I understand how and when and why I will use what I’m being taught, which means I want to actually LEARN.

This time around, thanks to years of learning the hard way, I understand that front-loaded efforts almost always lead to improved efficiencies and outcomes, which means I want to actually WORK.

And this time around, I understand that some of the most important lessons have nothing to do with what’s going to be on the exam.

Here’s what I need to know for tonight (we get to bring a 1-page note sheet):

Statistics Final

I’ve got this stuff down (I think) and I’ll continue to remember and use it when I’m running accelerometer analyses in the lab.

But what I really want to remember and use are some of my professor’s off-the-cuff remarks, like these:

* Statistics is only here to tell you what happened; it doesn’t make value judgments. It’s like a good friend that way.

* When you’re learning something for the first time, it’s going to be awkward. Awkward is OK. Crazy hard is not.

* [after explaining probability theory]: I don’t need to have other people lose in order to feel like a winner.

* I know some of this stuff is like a pain in the butt to do by hand, but learning the hard way is usually the best way.

* Before we learn regressions, I have to give you some warnings — not that any of you would go out and do evil with them, but you never know … and I need to play it safe.

* Power is a good thing, but you have to be wary of it — it can result in false positives.

And, finally:

* If you go through life and you don’t ever make assumptions about things, then you won’t have much to say.

Professor Chen rivals Forrest Gump in terms of folksy wisdom. I have appreciated the opportunity to learn from him, and tonight I will dominate his exam.

Parting Thought: Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. ~ Albert Einstein

3 Responses to “Will this be on the exam?”

  1. katerinadiaviano March 28, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    Love it! You lucked out with a great prof. I remember my Stats class back in the 80s when we were just beginning to use computers. We probably won’t be able to meet you in Italy as we are going on a Road Trip to Crater Lake and Olympic National Park this summer. If we go to visit Frish and family, probably won’t be until the fall. Hope you get to see their little corner of this world. We loved it. Kathy

  2. justadventures March 28, 2013 at 10:06 am #

    Professor Chen is adorable and helpful in a very understated nerdish way. Bummer about the Italy timing. I’ll connect with Frish directly. Ciao!


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