html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: You?

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Algebra or geometry?

Physics or chemistry?

Visual or auditory?

Loved algebra, geometry was fine.
Really liked physics, hated chemistry with every inch of my body.
Profoundly auditory. I remember most of what I hear. I eavesdrop constantly and must know the lyrics to a song. But I can't do those tests where you fold up the squares and predict which side of the cube the mark will be on. Even with hand gestures, those are impossible for me.

Special Bonus Question:

Which part of calculus was The Part that you loved more than the rest?

I don't think I have much intuition for math. But, I'm not scared of it and I follow the rules and line up my equals signs and it looks so pretty. Calculus was fine for me, except! I loved trigonometric substitutions. Those were like languages and secret codes and a special treat on an ordinary day. My sister says she can revolve any curve you like around the axis of your choice. That wasn't my thing. My thing was trigonometric substitutions.

You know, I should take calculus again at the local community college. I would have to work really hard to do anything but take a derivative now. It has been fifteen years since I took calculus.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Algebra, Chemistry, Visual. Almost opposite.

4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Algebra, physics, verbal but not spatial - I have to read something to understand it.

5:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Algebra/Geometry - don't know, they're both good I guess.

Physics/Chemistry - Physics. Chemistry is all made up. I was a physics major though once, so I'm biased, I think all fields are less than physics.

Visual/Auditory - I have no idea. I can solve those cube puzzles. I usually have a picture of things in my head, like software I write and whatnot. Oh, I used to be able to solve these types of puzzles in my head.

But, I remember most of what I hear as well, including all the lyrics to all the songs I hear on the radio.


5:32 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

When you fight with your gf, do you notice her tone of voice or her body language?

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neither, I have no emotional awareness, or social skills.

But, she does always seem impressed with the level of detail I remember from all the stories she's constantly telling me about her friends, and family and whatnot.


5:53 PM  
Blogger jens said...

Textual over visual (I am not as much above average at spatial puzzles as at most areas, definitely need the lyrics to every song) OR auditory

5:57 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

1) Both. I loved both, and my ambimathophila was reinforced by my math tutoring experience. 'Cause I'd sometimes explain geometric stuff algebraically or algebraic stuff geometrically depending upon who and what I was dealing with.
2) Physics, by a long shot. Chemistry seems too arbitrary and memory-driven.
3) Auditory. I have a very hard time doing 3D manipulations in my head, but song lyrics stick like glue.

6:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geometry, Chemistry, Both visual and auditory about equally (when I can actually hear and understand what I'm supposed to be listening to...I hear stuff wrong kind of a lot though).

6:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geometry. I liked that the things you proved were visible.

Physics versus chemistry? Geesh. For physics, optics and electriticy and magnetism were too hard. Statics and dynamics was too easy. Molecular physics wasn't intereting because those guys usually don't talk about reactions. Particle physics doesn't seem to apply to anything I can ever use.

On chemistry, it can be memory-driven as noted by Mark. However, at some level you get to think about orientations of electron fields and the like when coming up with reaction mechanisms. That's cool.

Chemistry also seems to be useful for understanding what's going on with a lot of day-to-day things. (Physics might be even more so, but that's more intuitive and doesn't necessarily require physics training.)

I think I'm auditory. I'm not completely so though. I like pretty pictures. (Megan, weren't you a Tufte fan?

6:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both, with a slight lean toward visual. The skills don't mix well for me though.

7:05 PM  
Anonymous quirkybook said...

I liked both, but I'll give the edge to geometry.

Chemistry, hands down.

Um, of those two, I'd say I'm visual. I've definitely become more so since moving from social science to engineering -- I used to suck at those tests where you had to move odd 3-d shapes in your head, but now I'm above average. But in truth, I'm kinesthetic more than anything -- the best way I learn things in a general sense is by getting my hands dirty, and in terms of book learning, nothing can enter my brains at all unless I take notes.

7:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a) Lean towards algebra, but I like connecting the two -- especially when you can use to algebra to show something more interesting about the geometry. (E.g. calc-based economics is much more interesting and nuanced than geometry-based econ.)

b) Lean towards physics, but really liked physical chemistry. (Orgo sucked.)

c) All visual. Can't remember the name of someone who introduced themselves 10 seconds previously -- unless I got their business card. Less usefully, I can tell you where on the page I saw a piece of information years earlier.


8:09 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Geometry. If I can see it, the battle is over. Algebra is a lot of work for me.

Physics. Chemistry is the only class I ever took that I knew I wasn't just being lazy. Everything after the first day was a blur.

Visual. If you give me a number, I go to a little place in my head and put the number on the scale my brain created. It's not a straight scale. It has curves and changes in grade (it starts climbing after six, but doesn't exactly start out looking like a clock) that help make distinctions between them. I didn't consciously create it, but I get why it works now. It's good up to about four digits (different scales for temp,headings, weight, minutes to hours, etc.) and I can't slide the decimal point over to stay on the scale. It doesn't work like that. (209 is a place. 2090 is a different place.) After that, large numbers (phone numbers, etc.) simply have to be visualized or they are gone. Give me a lat/long and I'll have to close my eyes for a second to get it down before I can even write it. I'm hopeless at remembering songs (or names) I didn't learn before about 7th grade. I rarely remember colors.

8:39 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Sometimes I think we were separated at birth, but then I don't understand how my long lost twin could be a libertarian.

Bob V.:
I've been trying to train myself to process the things I see. A lot of times I'll have to say my interpretation out loud, so it turns into useful words.

Anand has a 3D map for all the numbers too. He drew it for me once, although he wasn't pleased that he couldn't depict the spirals. I should have you both draw your maps and then FIGHT!!! over which one is right.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

I'm not 100% sure that I could draw it. I had a hell of a time trying to explain a dumbed down version. And I'm not entirely certain that it's even continuous (or linear, or whatever I mean). I am pleased to hear that I'm not alone.

Anand is like Jesus Christ to me.

I don't believe he'll have a Second Coming either...

10:46 PM  
Blogger Noel said...

Intricate mental maps of numbers are apparently quite common. A read a book about a few years ago that included some quite nice drawings, though I can't remember the title! Google did turn up Mental Number Line Images

3:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Liked both algebra and geometry - but the proofs in geometry? The way you lined up the proof statements in those columns? Oh baby. I'm getting chills just thinking about it.

Loved physics, still detest chemistry (chemistry made no sense whatsoever until I got to quantum mechanics. Rutherford had it right - it's stamp collecting.)

Definitely more visual - I memorize phone numbers by picturing the patterns the number makes on the keypad.

wow, what I geek I am. No wonder I seem to scare the bejesus out of every cute boy I meet.

3:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Liked both algebra and geometry - but the proofs in geometry? The way you lined up the proof statements in those columns? Oh baby. I'm getting chills just thinking about it.

Loved physics, still detest chemistry (chemistry made no sense whatsoever until I got to quantum mechanics. Rutherford had it right - it's stamp collecting.)

Definitely more visual - I memorize phone numbers by picturing the patterns the number makes on the keypad.

wow, what I geek I am. No wonder I seem to scare the bejesus out of every cute boy I meet.

3:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Calculus. I guess that includes algebra and also the visual element of surfaces and shapes! I really liked calculus. When I took linear algebra that involved all those cold and impersonal matrices, math wasn't as compelling. Sniff.

2. Physics. I thought chemistry was hard, too. Did you have Mr. Fife in HS? I remember my Dad trying to help me quite often, and also crying once in a while. What I DID like was the whole process of the chem lab - you could titrate things, and sometimes things would change color, and you were always trying to be very meticulous.

3. A bit of both visual and auditory. For example, if you have a long weird name, I will always remember it if I've seen or imagined it spelled out, but I will not remember it if I've only heard it. On the other hand, I have that song-lyric skill. On the other hand, when I used to study my notes for an exam, I'd literally envision the page of notes while I was taking the test and I'd know where on the page the info was.

I love learning languages and trying to say them, wherever that fits in.

4:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Algebra, hands down.

Physics/Chemistry, neither are particular favs of mine. I'd probably go with Chemistry if I had to chose one though.

Auditory, definitely.

6:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. don't forget Euler showed us they are fundamentaly connected: e^(i*theta) = cos(theta) + i*sin(theta). But other than that, the answer is analysis.

2. Physics, no contest.

3. Both. I'm a musician but also visually oriented; what can I do....


6:43 AM  
Anonymous thelonious_nick said...


Physics. My chemistry teacher in HS used to blink a lot, and I used to count how many blinks there were, and after class I'd compare notes with another bored student who also counted her blinks. This was actually more interesting than the lesson.

Visual. Which is a little strange since I really like learning langauges and listening to music. But as far as languages, I'm always better with vocabulary and grammar (which I can "see" in my mind's eye) than with pronunciation and comprehension. I'm really enjoying Chinese now, as after I got over the shock of not using an alphabet I came to really appreciate the greater beauty (and sometimes utility) of picture-based characters.

Similarly, although I love music and have taken up piano, guitar, and bass guitar at various times in my life, I have always played by picturing where my hands should go rather than by sound. That's probably why no matter how much I practiced I could really only get to a certain level of proficiency. It's also probably why much of my enjoyment in playing instruments comes from the tactility of running my fingers over wood, ivory, and string, rather than from the squawks and atonalities that my playing produces.

7:06 AM  
Blogger LizardBreath said...

Algebra, physics, auditory, but the only one of those preferences that's strong is physics (which I always thought of as a preference for the abstract over the concrete, or logic over memory. If you understand it, you can write a year's physics notes on an index card, but chemistry has actual content you need to remember.)

I used to think of myself as unvisual, but then I talked to some people that thought of themselves as visual, and realized that visualization tasks that were hard for me were hard for them too -- they were just impressed by being able to do them at all.

(The sort of thing I was thinking about is the following:

[This only works if you don't, already, offhand, know the relationship between the phases of the moon and the time of moonrise and moonset.] Visualize the Earth, sun, and moon in space. Now tell me what the relationship is between the phase of the moon, and when it rises.

I assumed that 'visual' people could build models in their heads, and pull new information out of them pretty easily. In fact, I've never ran into anyone who figured that one out by looking at the picture in their head -- it takes some abstract thought for everyone I've ever met.)

7:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't mind geometry, but I like algebra because it presents more of a challenge.

This is probably part of the reason I enjoy Physics. Chemistry strikes me as more of a "geometry" science. My father is a chemist, so I didn't have too much difficulty with it. Like algebra, I prefer Physics because I find it more challenging.

Visual/Spatial because I'm used to working with my hands, building things, taking stuff apart and putting it back together once I see how it works. I'm not a very good listener, my mind tends to wander, and I've never been very good at reading body language. I've typically been pretty good at remembering song lyrics though.


8:05 AM  
Anonymous Tom said...

Best part of calculus was Lagrange multipliers. Or maybe Stokes' theorem.

8:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

re: special bonus question...

... given that you loved the trig stuff, Megan, did anyone ever show you that the main trig identities you use in calc I/ calc II come from the equation I mentioned at 6:43 ?


8:30 AM  
Blogger jens said...

Kind of unfair not to give the bonus question until after I already answered. My favorite part of Calculus were the min-max problems...finally a way to solve things I only had to guess at before!

Your sister is a very lucky girl. If I could revolve any curve I liked around the axis of my choice, my wife would be very displeased!

8:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Physics (all I remember about chemistry is mucking about with toxic fluid. That and valence electrons, which are physics anyway, I think, right?)

This one's harder. I'd read about a hundred books before I'd get one on audiobook, although part of that is because I read very fast. And I do remember faces better than names. But almost all my strong memories are auditory rather than visual, and when I hallucinate (for whatever reason) it's always sound.

Bonus: I like how it is actually useful. You can use the derivative to find acceleration! That was a revelation to me. The whole notion of this (in high school) scary branch of math being fairly directly applicable to the "real" (yes, even in high school with the quotes) world was pretty revelatory

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Algebra, physics, visual. I'm pretty OK with geometry & trig, since I use it near daily.

Strongly visual though-- I can hear a song many times before I'm solid on even the chorus, but I know (and think about) the words when I read them.

I'm pretty fond of the whole relating volumes to surface areas thing. ;)

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geometry over algebra (strong preference)
Physics over chemistry (slight preference)
Visual over auditory (almost a toss-up)

Iron Rails & Iron Weights

10:48 AM  
Anonymous Tom said...

Oh, yeah. To answer the original question:

Algebra. Physics (duh). Visual.

11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geometry (differential geometry is the one of the most beautifull things in the world), physics, and visual.

When I first took calculus those delta-epsilon proofs always confused the hell out of me. Then one day--BAM--they made sense and were easy which made calculus the most perfect, beautifull subject in the world.


1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeh, I'm with Steven. I forgot about how you had to start with delta epsilon logic in order to be expected to understand the general concept of the infinitely small increment. That was probably dumb, I bet they could have started with something more conceptual instead of those proofs. But anyway.

Fundamtentally, what Lizardbreath said is what it's all about:

... a preference for the abstract over the concrete, or logic over memory. If you understand it, you can write a year's physics notes on an index card, but chemistry has actual content you need to remember.

My dad and I have have this conversation where we talk about how we're only good at math and physics and making stuff because everything else requires memorization rather than just figuring stuff out. It's essentially a very lazy way to be. You're only lucky enough to get away with it as long as you can figure stuff out based on first principles and the evidence at hand.

If I told you that I'm always impressed by art history majors, you'd guess I'm being disingenuous because I probably don't think they're very clever at all. And you'd kinda be right, because I secretly suspect that for some types of chicks, art history is a default major when you can't do math. However, I also know that I could never, ever read all those books and memorize all those images and corresponding genres, people, eras, consequences, schools of thought, continua, methodologies, and political ramifications. It would be way too much data for my meager storage capacity. I'd go into dump mode immediately. When I took architectural history, I was ok at it because I could write about what I saw and I could remember facts briefly. But do I remember any of it now? Hell no. I am a historical illiterate.

1:55 PM  
Blogger Cladeedah said...

Way to trick all your readers into talking dirty to you.

I'm Algebra, Physics, Auditory, baby. No bonus for me though.

3:21 PM  
Anonymous bryn said...

physics in high school, chemistry in college (thought I wanted to major in physics until I met the professors -- including one who was a nobel laureate who told us a story about how his prof at caltech said he should be an electrical engineer because he wasn't smart enough to be a physicist, who when approached in office hours about being a physics major told me I didn't have the grades for it, and when I said well I do well in my engineering classes so maybe I'll do computational physics said "garbage in garbage out". Apparently the nobel doesn't include a free sense of irony with the $1m prize.)

Definitely visual.

Calculus, huh, I vaguely remember hearing that word. Something about big funky S like the Fs in the declaration of independence and something about dare-i-vay-tives :)

How about random vs. sequential? ie can you start watching a tv show in the second season? do you eat a box of macadamia nut chocolates one row at a time? me random. my sister, very sequential.

3:28 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

They ALL fell for it. So hot.

Oooooh. I've never thought of random or sequential, but knew instantly that I am deeply sequential. I often won't start series until I know that they are complete. Things come in order for a reason, and we shouldn't be flauting that. I also eat kernels off the corn cob two or three at a time, in very neat rows.

3:36 PM  
Anonymous bryn said...

so is there a correlation between random/sequential and multitasking? I think so but only have a very limited pool of "study participants"

3:52 PM  
Anonymous bryn said...

oh and I've heard the sequential argument before.... but I say eat the corn kernels closest to your teeth when you pick up the cob!

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm like that too Megan. I eat corn the same way, and I eat my food in order, 1 thing at a time, and I eat all of 1 thing before moving onto the next, usually based on some algorithm in my head to maximize my enjoyment.

But, I can multitask too. In fact, I enjoy some kinds of multitasking. I like it when I'm so busy that I have no time to think about anything else. Like when you're cooking something complex, and you've got several things going at once all requiring attention. All the chopping, and slicing, and reducing, and boiling, and frying and baking and whatnot. I think that's relaxing, you don't have any time left to worry about anything else.


4:21 PM  
Blogger srchngformystry said...

a bit late, but ill play.


chemistry (but i kicked ass on my physics final, and i was stoned -im not proud of that bit of info).


bonus question: i love derivatives and sines and cosines. LOVED THEM!

1:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those that say they hated chemistry, I'm curious: how are you in the kitchen?

As I mentioned earlier, my father was a chemist, and also did all the cooking. He came up with some really interesting meals that were made up of things that didn't seem like they'd go well together, but always tasted great. To him, it's like every meal was an experiment.

I enjoyed chemistry and did ok at it, and enjoy cooking and do ok with that as well. However, I can't help but feel like I'm missing out on something by not taking a chemists' approach to the kitchen. I have cookbooks and recipes and things of that nature, and I do ok when I just throw a bunch of stuff together, but it always feels like there's something missing.

Just curious.


8:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geometry was fine. Algebra is my life long friend. I always need to know quantity and that is algebra.

Physics is ok but Chemistry has better experiments. When I realized that the free hydrogen from sulfuric acid and metal had go some where and lit it, I swore by my bunsen burner that chemistry loves me and will make him eat it that says I do not love Chemistry.

Auditory, I dream auditory although visual has the advantage that I can get almost as much pleasure from sight, but I don’t have painful visual experiences unless they convey terrible information.

Not much of a calculus person.

9:21 AM  

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