Lessons for life from solving complex antiderivatives

Illustration by Nino Mekanarishvili

In this article, Mpoyi Luboya reflects on the challenges that he experienced in an undergraduate engineering mathematics course. Luboya describes how attending the mathematics symposia gave him insight into his personal perceptions related to learning mathematics.

I always found it weird at first when my father said, “doing mathematics changes the way you think, and people who do mathematics can understand more difficult things”. After my first year at university, I can confirm that among those difficult things he was referring to was solving complex antiderivatives.

After having completed the first year of engineering mathematics, with a few nightmares of receiving zero in my exams due to forgetting to add that constant after completing an antiderivative, I can not only testify that my thought patterns have changed but that a person’s psychological state also plays a large role in the methods they use to complete that first year of engineering mathematics.

I can be described as one of those learners who desires to first properly understand something, regardless of how long it takes, before applying the related theory to simplify expressions and solve equations. However, the pace at which content is released and taught at University is not kind to university students like me. Being in such a position where I was falling behind faster than I could understand the work being taught, changed my initial sentiments of enjoyment and appreciation for mathematics to one of distaste. That mind-set hindered me from fully applying myself and my grades suffered.

by Cayla Basson
Illustration by Cayla Basson

Taking a step back and joining these mathematics and psychology discussions helped me understand how my psychological state affected my studying. Perhaps it was through my previously perceived ideas and prejudices of how abstract or concrete the calculus I studied was, or how I perceived mathematics from an early age and how it was portrayed to me played a role in how I choose to interact with it.

To me, this series of discussions showed that knowledge really is power, and through its proper harnessing and utilization one can alter the course of one’s degree and better understand oneself.

Mpoyi Luboya

Second Year Engineering,

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