Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, February 22, 2024

A Jumbo’s Journey: Why I have beef with the +C in calculus

A Jumbo's Journey.png
Graphic by Rachel Wong

The term +C that is pasted in the answers of indefinite integrals in calculus has always troubled me during my 1 ½ year tenure as a calculus scholar. Its anomalous obscurity. Its pestering nature. Its constant and continual reminder that we are merely specks of dust floating in an ever-growing universe.

According to my knowledge, the +C term signifies a constant in the original function. The label has lost me many points on exams, but that isn’t the main reason why I have beef with it.

I believe that the +C term is unnecessary when writing the answer for most indefinite integrals. It’s an arbitrary constant that I feel astute mathematicians don’t need to write. The term is implied. The same is true with decimal points: We know that 2 is the same as 2.00. That logic can be applied to the +C term: It’s simply notation.  

For those wondering, this mathematical argument isn’t what this column is about. But I believe it gives a somewhat enthralling hook into the bulk of my first article of the semester! And I get to write a very, very hot take. Wait until you hear my views on ketchup.

As mentioned before, +C represents a constant in math. And today I plan on sharing my opinions about consistency and constants in life and college, which are strangely similar to my thoughts about +C. Our lives should be spontaneous. A little uncertain at times. An unsolicited Dewick run at 4:27 p.m. An impulsive $20 pencil purchase at the bookstore.

However, as my wrinkles begin to form, I’ve realized that consistency is imperative (and correct in a sense). Especially as naive, simple freshmen.

Over break, I spent my days pondering life — reflecting on who I am now and what I’ve gone through. I compared myself from the beginning to the end of 2023. The dichotomy is drastic. At the beginning, I was an egotistical senior in high school living with my parents. At the end, I was an anxious freshman in college stuck with Dewick chicken.

I have a whole new cohort of friends, an entirely different routine and an abundance of fresh experiences and dad lore. And, as I emotionally sat in front of the fire with my black coffee, it became clear that consistency was not a part of my 2023. That can be said for most, if not all, freshmen.

While I can comfortably write, “Oh yeah, I have beef with consistency and the +C,” I have trouble in their absence. I do have beef with them, but I have seen and felt the impacts when consistency isn’t apparent. A multitude of studies have found that mental health and consistency are inherently intertwined. A strongly established constant lifestyle positively influences one’s mental health.

Unfortunately, that constant lifestyle was (for the most part) nonexistent in 2023. That and the amalgamation of atypical emotions and an entirely new perspective make freshmen the scared, anxious students we are. And that takes a toll on mental health.

Throughout my first semester, the importance of well-being and mental health became abundantly clear. Anxiety, depression and self-confidence issues run rampant. And it’s not just a singular person or just Tufts — it’s a universal phenomenon. Some may even go as far as to say that it’s part of the freshman experience.

Tufts has a plethora of resources to help with mental health crises. Use them. Talk with someone. Mental health problems don’t just go away. And it may seem like you are alone, but remember that we are all in the same boat. No one really feels 100%, and no one knows how to navigate this crazy little thing called life. We are all in this together.

Though my beef remains, I can concede that both the +C and consistency are a necessary part of life. For this new year, maybe focus on yourself a little bit more. Eat ice cream. Dance in the rain. Get that Dewick brownie. Enjoy life and take care of your mental health.

It’s like what Clarence said to George in “It’s a Wonderful Life”: “You see George, you really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?” Even if you are in a dark headspace and can’t see it at this moment, in the end, it truly is a wonderful life.