oh wow. i solved that problem without even realizing it was THE problem. i had written it again in my notebook and left space so i could ask the professor tomorrow and write it down, and tonight i was just finishing up the half-finished problems when i completed that one and realized it was THE one. lol. but yeah, magicmerl, i think that's an apt description of what we have been doing so far. i have been wondering if i'm having such a hard time with this because i don't "get" the professor's teaching style. another classmate noted this, it seems that he makes things unnecessarily complex. but it may just be that i'm having a hard time and need to study more, who knows. if you want to give it a whack, the original problem is above (and rewritten below).
(don't use a calculator of course)