Thursday, June 01, 2006

So You Think You Know Calculus

Subtitle: If math placement testing was done by So You Think You Can Dance.

Int. theater - day

NIGEL, MIA, and DAN sit at a table set up in the front row of the theater seating, watching the stage. There is a large blackboard on the stage. A STUDENT walks onto the stage, walks over to the blackboard, and picks up a piece of chalk. NIGEL cues the student to begin


Hi. I'm going to be doing, um, a related rates.

The STUDENT starts writing on the board.

A ladder 10 feet long rests against a vertical wall. If the bottom of the ladder slides away from the wall at a rate of 1 foot per second, how fast is the top of the ladder sliding down the wall when the bottom of the ladder is 6 feet from the wall?

The STUDENT draws a triangular diagram on the board and continues writing on the board while talking.

We use the Pythagorean Theorem to get x2 + y2 = 100. OK? So first we plug in x=6, giving us 36 + y2 = 100 or y2 = 64. We take the derivative of both sides, so we get 2y = 0, so y=0. And--


Stop! Enough! How long have you been studying calculus?

The STUDENT stops writing on the board and walks to the front of the stage, facing the judges.


I took calculus in high school.


Well, it doesn't seem to have done much good.

(To the other judges)

What do you think?


I thought it was pretty bad.

(To Student)

Can you take derivatives of exponential functions?




What's the derivative of 10x?




I think we've seen enough. Mia?


I don't think you're right for this class. A no from me.


A no from me.


You're not going to be going through to Calculus 2. Thank you. Next!

The STUDENT walks off stage, dejectedly.