No, I’m not talking about hemorrhoids. Nor having my heart crushed by any number of women in the early 90s. I’m talking about Calculus 200. The 1989/90 scholastic year at UBC followed an excellent year of science for me which included a 91% in Calculus I. What began as a year of hope and promise nearly ended with a course failure in second year calculus. What went wrong? Who was to blame? Who cares? I’ll answer the last question first: I care. I’m still annoyed with Calculus II and the grade I received, it drives me crazy. Every now and then I still tell myself that I will audit this course and improve upon my previous results. I bet a lot of people have had a similar situation.

First, let me say just how gutless I think UBC was in their selection of the course text book. The book sucked and should not have been used. For most people that attended undergraduate courses at UBC, it will come to no surprise that the book was authored by lo and behold, a professor from UBC. If memory serves me correct, the book was written by Robert Adams. The book was okay at presenting mathematical theorems but it failed miserably at showing how these theorems could be used to solve mathematical problems. Every chapter followed the same formula. First, the theorem would be presented along with some sort of proof or derivatization. Next, the theorem would be used to solve the simplest mathematical problem that could be imagined. Each chapter would then finish with a series of problems/questions. Noticeably absent from this formula would be the actual solutions to said problems. Now I’m no expert in the science of teaching but it is beyond me as to what purpose would be served by not providing detailed solutions for the problems. Surely the author should assume that a university level teacher is not going to use these questions for course quizzes exams, so there shouldn’t be anything to hide. Secondly, the text book needs to be able to stand on its own without necessarily needing the guidance of a course instructor. In my mind, this text book completely fails in its attempt to teach its reader in the understanding and application of multivariable calculus.

If that wasn’t bad enough, I had some freakazoid of prof. The guy was a walking hygiene problem. Body order, crappy clothes, brown stained teeth, he had it all. I remember one day he showed up wearing an 18″ tall wool hat, and when the students laughed at him he got all flustered and confused as to what the problem was. He was probably some type of genius but there was no way that guy had any business in teaching. He would essentially copy the text book out on to the blackboard. I remember one day someone asked him a question and he looked at the student, looked at the text book, looked at the blackboard, looked back at the student, back at the text book, back at the blackboard, and then replied with “it’s in the text book.”

I suppose I had my own intellectual limitations, so I can’t pass on all the blame. How UBC could use that book or that prof is inexcusable to me though. It’s situations like this that leaves me completely disillusioned with UBC. For many reasons I would recommend potential students stay away from UBC. I guess UBC’s saving grace is that Vancouver is a great city and I don’t think it really matters *where* a student goes for their undergraduate degree.