Monday, March 12, 2007


I am not a numbers person.

That’s not even a secret shame for me. I’ve never been able to do math. Many of my elementary school memories surround the mortification I felt not being able to do long division in Mrs. Reams’ class in the fourth grade. She spent an entire 40 minutes on a tirade to the class about me and my inability to complete the problem. It’s actually a very painful memory for me, but I wish her no ill. She was a short, poorly dyed, scrap of a hag who upon adult reflection probably needed anti-depressants. I know Mrs. Miller sure as heck did.

To this day, I count on my fingers to add and anything more complicated than that either gets put on a piece of paper (long division finally mastered!!), or I utilize the miracle of modern technology, a calculator. Excel? Microsoft Excel is my friend.

I have many memories rife with humiliation, but one in particular was when I was trying to work out some mystical computation. You know, it was one of those frightening calculations they put on SATs, “How many cups are in a bushel?” (Not the real question) Something like that. Anyway, I’m frantically counting on my fingers, working up a few charts, when then 10 year old Adam pipes in “Eleven”. I scowled at him – smarty. “No it is not. Whatever.” Smart-mouthed little kid. A full ten minutes later, I twice arrived at the answer, which of course, you know was “Eleven”.

Part of me wanted to believe it was a good guess on his part. The other part understood just by looking Adam in the eye that he knew I was an idiot.

But God Bless you numbers people out there. No disrespect to your game whatsoever. I have nothing but admiration and wonder of your ability. I’m just not a number person. That side of my brain functions only occasionally, when for example, I don’t want any coins back from the cashier, so I give her the correct change, or when I try to remember how old I am, I have to subtract 1964 from the current year. On my fingers.

Its why this:

astounds me. “The Ten Coolest Numbers”. I thought it would be something like “22” because that’s what Dan Hughes’ football jersey number was in high school. mmmmmmmmdanhughesmmmmmmmmm.

No, its stuff like “Though the choice of 2 here for the exponent is somewhat non-canonical (i.e. we've just noted that , where stands for the Riemann zeta function), and though this is largely
interesting for math-historical reasons (it was the first sum of this type that Euler computed), we can at least include it here to represent the amazing array of numbers of the form for a positive integer.

Or it will talk about things like Feigenbaum’s Constant. The only thing constant for me
here is the constant ice cream headache I get when I try to wrap my brain around what the writer is trying to say. I’ve heard of the Golden Ratio, Fibonacci’s Sequence, and well, we’ve all heard of “pi”...uh, noooooo, I can't articulate them, but I've heard of them. What about Khinchin’s Constant? You’d think it should appeal to me because of the obvious Asian extraction, but never heard of it!! And there is just no way that 163 is the coolest number in the world. I mean come on:

The maximal conductor if an imaginary abelian number field of class number 1 corresponds to the field , which has conductor .

Who does that? Bwpthththmwff. I’m sorry - I just threw up in my mouth. The math was too much.


Anonymous said...

Should have been in Ms. Reina's class.

E said...

I was. For algebra, for geometry and for basic computer language. Awful.

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