Day 72: #100HappyDays
Conic Sections at Ayala

The Conic Sections

The Conic Sections

My very soon to be sister-in-law Grace is preparing for her board exams this September. Amidst all the wedding and career hooplah I am currently subjected to, we finally found the time to sit together, share some McDo shaker fries in Ayala area after a hard day’s work and discuss about conic sections. I sorely miss one on one mentoring for board exam reviews. It’s just one way of giving back to the future engineers of this country that I will never grow tired of doing. Besides, this bridezilla needs a break, for real.

I had to refresh myself a bit while I held her reviewers containing shortcuts of formula. I think I did something right during my board exam because three or four years on, I can still remember how these conic section formulae were derived in under 30 minutes.It’s not because I am smart (though some people always insist on that). It’s more because I am strategic with my approach to learning things.

Here is the gist of today’s board exam tip: You never unlearn things when you learn them in a very deep and imaginative way.

How did I propose that Grace remember the formula for conic sections? It was just simple. I requested that she only remember the general formula and use the image of the conic section to imagine how it would look like:

Ax^2 + Bxy + Cy^2 + Dx + Ey + F = 0

where A, B, C, D, E, and F are constants.

You see, by itself, it has no meaning. But when you imagine something fun like an ice cream cone and slice it in different ways and apply math to it, it becomes interesting. For her homework, I think I asked Grace to buy Play Doh, shape it into a cone and recall the formula of the conic sections in her head as she slices the clay cone.

The reviewer will just give you a list of shortcuts to gargle until the big day. But if you do not know how these were derived, you can get mental block on the day of the exam, forget the memory work you did (like a parrot who imitates the human words to get food from its master without knowing what the words mean).

(An Important Note: Don’t derive during the exam per se. But during review, just understand where the formula came from!)

Do not be afraid to create your own shortcuts or deviate a little from what other people are doing during review. If you do better by graphing or imagining an ice cream cone sliced in various directions, do it!

And yes, nobody is too young for Play Doh. Go make your playtime productive.

 

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