Learning Curves

A “learning curve” is, in my understanding, a graph which describes the rate at which you learn something as a function of the time spent learning it. The progress of your learning measured against the time you take to acquire mastery. The more quickly you learn the subject, the steeper the curve on the graph.

The-common-man-in-the-street thinks of it differently. To him, “a steep learning curve” means the subject is a really tough one — hard to learn. This interpretation makes sense if you think of “steepness” as slowing progress. If you are going from here to there on a bicycle, for example, and “there” is at the top of a hill, the steepness of the hill is something to be overcome. It slows your progress toward “there.” (Bicyclist’s Lament: “The meanest dog always lives halfway up the steepest hill.”)

What’s all this relevant to? Well, I’ve lately been trying to learn calculus. I have a collection of about a dozen books that claim they will teach me calculus quickly and easily. Some of them are decades old, because my desire to learn the subject is long-term. I’ve finally decided to devote some time and effort to actually using the books.

I’m finding my learning curve for calculus is nearly flat, or very steep, depending on which interpretation of “learning curve” we go with. It has been a carload of years since my last math class of any kind, and over the years there has not been a lot of reason to use much of the math I ever learned, anyway. Thus far in my pursuit of calculus, the main thing I’ve learned is that my algebra is pretty weak. Now, I used to consider myself pretty good at algebra, so it’s sort of a blow to realize that my learning of calculus is going to be delayed by having to re-learn algebra as I go. (I suspect I’ll trip over some trig concepts, too.)

An added delay turns out to be …blogging. I have thought it might be fun to play around with a blog, and when Prodos made his offer of free use of his blogging resources with the only stipulation being that one is a proponent of Capitalism, I figured it probably wouldn’t get any better than this. I have been an advocate of laissez faire capitalism for donkey’s years. It’s the only social system that recognizes individual rights and private ownership of property.

But, blogging turns out to have its own learning curve. Prodos made it simpler by having format themes available and taking care of all the server stuff, but it looks like there are lots of things to learn as I go along — linking, text formatting, managing comments, if any, etc., etc. So, I expect this to be an on again, off again undertaking until I get comfortable with the mÃ

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3 thoughts on “Learning Curves”

  1. Are we at last brought to such a humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our own defense? Where is the difference between having our arms in our possession and under our own direction, and having them under the management of Congress? If our defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hand? PATRICK HENRY, 3 Elliot Debates 168-169.

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