Difficult sums

Do you remember the exhilarating feeling of finishing your last A-level [high-school exam] ? Do you remember thinking “thank fuck I’ll never have to remember any of that shit again” ? Finishing the Maths exam was particularly cathartic because I just didn’t understand it. I found it fascinating, but no matter how much work I put in it just didn’t click. Goodbye calculus, good-riddance imaginary numbers, sod-you complex planes, and bollocks to natural logarithms, I remember thinking.
Twenty years later I’m now dealing with all of them in my job! It was hard enough when my brain was fresh and quick, before the years of alcohol and TV abuse, but now it just hurts. The last two days have involved a load of head-crunching and I still don’t understand how any of it works. Whenever I see a formula that involves either e or i, my brain goes into shock and changes the subject so it doesn’t have to deal with it.
There is however a benefit of twenty years’ experience: I can now use all of these arcane concepts, without actually knowing how they work and get stuff done.
But it’s not enough. I need to understand how they work. It’s like being confronted by a locked door or some copy protection – and that’s why I have sets of picks and a large collection of 2600 magazines.
Any tips for how to understand difficult sums welcome.


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