[Blindmath] Death by calculus

Amanda Lacy lacy925 at gmail.com
Thu Mar 21 12:48:42 CDT 2013

Hi everyone,

Since a couple of threads have been recently started about calculus, I figure this is a good time to ask for help. 

Here is what I think to be some relevant background info:
I am a computer science major at the University of Texas at Austin. I am completely blind since birth - absolutely no functioning rods or cones. In addition to this I have diagnosed Asperger's Syndrome. I mention this because the two combined situations significantly affect my learning process. For example, I am a route-based traveler. For the longest time I don't think it had occurred to me that anyone could travel anywhere by any other means than to execute a list of steps, one after the other, until the destination is reached. You now see why I am a computer programmer. Also as I mentioned previously, I don't pick up much of this sort of thing through audio, because I would be required to process the stuff I'm hearing now while also keeping the stuff I heard before in memory. It becomes a form of multitasking.

As a computer science major, I'm required to take through cal III; I'm currently taking cal II. So here's the problem, from what I can tell: Integration takes me a while, but I can do it pretty well by applying rules and moving through the process step by step, just like I do everything else in life. However, applications of integration are giving me trouble - when the question becomes not how to integrate, but what to integrate. Here are a couple of examples:
Find the area enclosed by the curves
y=1/x, y=x, y=(1/4)x, for x>0.
This one wasn't too bad. I know how to find where the curves intersect by setting them equal to each other. Normally we are expected to draw conclusions by using a sketch. I did not know what to do because I have a formula for finding the area between 2 curves, between points a and b, not between 3 curves and 3 intersection points:
integral from a to b of f(x)-g(x) dx
The professor and I worked out this one, but it illustrates the fact that I have difficulty knowing which order to plug things in.
Find the area inside both curves (not one or the other):
r = sin 2theta, r = cos 2theta
This one gave me fits. We were supposed to graph these. I found it nearly impossible and also couldn't easily picture one on top of the other. The professor says that 3D polar equations will come up in cal III and I struggle to imagine the relationships between them in 2D.

Here are the resources I have right now and my questions:
My book and tests are being Brailled, and tactile graphs are provided, unless the problem states that you should create them yourself. I have a drawing board, a Braille display, and I use Google's calculator. My professor meets with me twice a week to answer questions. We are stumped as to how I will do cal III. How does one graph in 3D, for example. I cannot understand 3D drawings well enough to use them to solve complex problems and certainly cannot draw them. What other methods have worked? Is there anyone in the Austin area who has experience tutoring blind students in higher math? I would be interested in that now and through the summer. I will also be in touch with the people at the Texas School for the Blind about this.

Thanks for reading this,

More information about the Blindmath mailing list