Have Some Pi

Today, 3-14, is Pi Day. This may seem like a silly and pointless thing to you, but for me it is very significant. It represents a landmark moment in my life. I still remember the day in middle school when my math teacher introduced this Pi thing to us. All my fellow classmates seemed to nod comprehendingly. I, on the other hand, was instantly and utterly confused. I wanted to know the WHY and the WHEN and the HOW and, most importantly, the damn real world application for this nonsense. But there was no time for that. Five seconds later we had a test on it, which seemed to be a nearly ubiquitous teaching strategy: “Here’s a bunch of complicated information which I will explain quite poorly. Alright, got it? Now regurgitate everything I just said onto this 50 question exam. This test will account for half of your grade. Make sure you have a photographic memory or we will be sending you across campus to learn about “life sciences” with the kids who spend most of the day smoking crack in the downstairs bathroom.” I, of course, failed that test. And pretty much every math test after it.

So Pi represents the moment when I officially parted ways with math, and the two of us have never reconciled. It’s when I first and finally threw up my hands and said “Ok, I’m out. I’m done. I can add and I can multiply but you might as well be speaking in Aramaic for the rest of it. I will never absorb another mathematical concept again. If you need me, I’ll be in my element. Which is to say, I’ll be down the hall arguing with my history teacher about the Crusades. Good day.”

Some people are stupid in a lot of areas. But almost everyone is stupid in at least one. Math is my one. And I’m fine with that. Unless you’re Leonardo da Vinci or an ancient Greek philosopher, you’ve got your own dumb-zone. I feel like I’ve gotten by pretty well without math. I’ve been functioning as an independent adult for quite some time now and I’ve never found myself in a bind where I REALLY needed to bust out the calculus or serve up some Pi. Math teachers like to pretend we live in a world without calculators. But I always knew better. That was my biggest hangup. I’d read through the word problems on the test and I always thought, “you know, there’s another way around this”. If my friend Gary is coming to visit on one train and my buddy Alan is on another train, and they’re approaching from different distances and at different speeds, I don’t think I necessarily need to work out exactly what time they’ll both arrive. They’ve got my number. I’ll be at the bar across the street and they can call me when they get in.

Problem solved. Math avoided yet again. Beer involved. Win/Win/Win.

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2 Responses to Have Some Pi

  1. jumeirajames says:

    Hey – i just ordered an Oscar winning movie all about Pi. Can’t wait.

  2. Cylar says:

    PI really isn’t a sophisticated concept. As I’m sure you eventually figured out, it represents the fixed ratio of a circle’s diameter to its circumference, and can also be used to calculate its area by multiplying it by the square of the radius. Actually, it’s helpful to understand stuff like this if you have any desire to become an engineer, architect, scientist or a number of other fields which require real academic rigor in order to enter and become effective in.

    That said, I hated math in school too…and it was only after I became an adult that I found out just how common it was for students to struggle with it to a greater extent than many other major school subjects. At the time, it seemed like I was the only guy in class who was having trouble with algebra or calculus (I called it “calcu-LOST”). Even arithmetic was a struggle for me in the early years. The one branch of math I really got a handle on was geometry and its child discipline, trigonometry. And then only because I was finally allowed the use of a calculator to determine what the sine or tangent of a triangle was.

    I’m going to defend a math major in college on one point: It’s one of the few fields that isn’t completely tainted with politically-correct bias of the sort that utterly infects history, sociology, philosophy, biological sciences, and to a lesser extent business. In math, there aren’t a lot of gray areas – your answer is either right or it isn’t. Your professor wants you to look at the problem and come up with the exact answer that he and all the other professors have agreed on.

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