91 Days

91 days remain until Exam P.  I am glad that my computer is keeping me honest about my studies, because otherwise I would be slacking, due to an aching flooring body.

I was so beat up yesterday that I took a couple of coffee breaks at Cafe Harmony, and I didn’t even study while I was there 🙂


94 Days Until Exam 1/P

There are 94 days remaining until I take exam p, but there are other things in life to keep in balance.  On my job, we have had a little run of late-season work.  My work is frequently light for several months each winter, but when the work is there, my job comes first.  We are also still in the midst of major home renovations.  These activities sometimes require entire days of attention.  Plus, it is holiday season.

Despite everything, I feel that I have achieved a good balance between my studying and the rest of my life.  Mostly, this is because I am using a system to organize my studies.  This means that if I don’t finish all of my problems today, I will be loaded with more for tomorrow.  I have already had instances where I came home from a social event, then spent an extra hour doing problems because I knew that I would be buried in work the next day otherwise.

The big exciting thing in my life is that I am finally laying the floors in my front rooms.  This flooring has been following me around for seven years, ever since I picked out the trees in my father’s woods.  Said trees were then sent to an Amish flooring mill, and delivered to my last house.  Now, in my current home, they are finally being put down.

hardwood florr


We cut down 5 different types of tree, oak, maple, ash, hickory, and beech.  We milled the logs into three different widths of flooring.  I am putting them down right on top of this beautiful 1950 scrub-and-wax tile.  Good riddance!

100 Days Remain

I am feeling pretty confident about my progress right now, except for when I run into problems that make my eyes bug out of my head.  My conundrum was whether I should go ahead and schedule the test for January, or wait until March, but I the January deadline is passed, so I guess March it is!  The great thing about having a test date is that now I have a definite number of days until the exam, and I can make a daily work log from now until then.  That makes 100 days to study!

In other news, I loaded all of the 153 SOA/CAS sample problems into an Anki deck.  This is not really the intended function of SRS software, but it is still a good way of sorting problem difficulties.  Although I am working problems from other sources, and still spending time with textbooks, I figure that I should be 100% familiar with all of the material in the SOA/CAS problems.  I will post that deck here in zip form later today.  Essentially, I just dumped images from the PDF into an Anki deck.

How to Find 1 Minus the Number on the Screen of Almost Any Calculator

It has been about a week since I stopped to reflect on my study progress.  Since then, my focus has been once again on problem solving.  I have the SOA/CAS problems on paper, and the older SOA/CAS problems online at the Online Math Tests Home Page.  If you are studying for actuarial exams, you should use this resource.  Decide that you are going to solve 10, or 20, or however many problems each day, and soon many of the problems will start looking like old friends.

In the meanwhile, I had a sudden flash of insight this morning.  Part of doing exceptionally well on Exam P/1 is learning to use a simple calculator to its utmost efficiency.  I use the TI-30XA, which is the most simple of the simple.  I have really come to love this calculator, especially as compared to my big old clunky graphing calculator with a maze of counter intuitive steps leading to a given function.  The more that you can streamline a calculation, the less chance there is for errors.  For instance, most calculators have an inverse button (1/X).  without this inverse button, you need to either write down the number you would like to find the inverse of, then enter 1 divided by the number into your calculator, or you need to store the number in a memory on the calculator, then press 1, divided by, then recall the number from the memory.

Another very common calculation is the ones complement of a number.  In probability, we incessantly need to find the probability of an event not happening, which is simply 1- Probability (the event happening).  You might need to do this calculation several times in one problem.

So, up until this morning, here are the keypresses I used to find the complement.  Suppose that the number I need to find the complement of is on my screen.

  1. {STO}
  2. {1}
  3. {1}
  4. {-}
  5. {RCL}
  6. {1}
  7. {=}

That is 7 keypresses, each one of which can be performed improperly.  My new method involves only 4 keypresses, using the ± button.

  1. {±}
  2. {+}
  3. {1}
  4. {=}

The added benefit is that I do not have to worry about intermediate values that I have stored in the memories (only 3 of them!) of the calculator.

To summarize:

How To Find One Minus a Number on a Calculator:

  1. Hit the ± button.
  2. Add one to the result.

O How Beautiful is the Language of LaTeX?

It may seem as if I am wasting my time working so hard to get all of my mathematics looking just right. But, the language of LaTeX is actually very simple, and just as quick to type in as any other formatting. But the results are spectacular.

Mathematics is not simply about functionality, and not even just about the beauty of the truths and logic embodied by the symbols.  As an artist, mathematics is also about the beauty of the symbols themselves, which beauty is amplified by the virtue of mathematical truth.

So, it is not a waste of time for me to get my visual formatting just right.  When I first began studying mathematics, I realized that, lacking any particular innate mathematical ability, I would have to utilize my verbal skills in learning.  So, in addition to my regular mathematical studies, I read books about mathematics and wrote papers on mathematical topics.  Visual mathematics serves a similar supplementary role for me in learning.

Right now, I am still putting new cards into my memorization pile.  For the moment generating function of the normal distribution, I would previously have written:


This is not too hard to read once you have looked at it a couple of times.  And, it has its own beauty in the fact that it can be texted without any loss of information.  You can improve it a little bit using html:


But LaTeX makes it great: