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Troubles with math, expressed poetically

Should I admit that I sometimes feel a bit of resentment toward people who are insistently articulate about their difficulties with mathematics? As if that good energy might be turned toward learning the subject they decry.
On the whole, though, it seems better to face the fact that we folks who speak the language of mathematics are the odd ones. Here are perceptive trouble-with-math poems by John Stone (1936-2008), who wrote as a parent trying to help with homework, and Elizabeth Savage,

who compares a pair of differently-able friends.
**Helping with the Math Homework** by John Stone
In the beginning
there were polynomials
differences of squares
trial and error
and the sum of two cubes.
X³ minus Y³
has always had
the same meaning
whatever it is.
But when Pythagoras
looked into
the eye of the triangle
and saw the solution
I wasn't there.
Nor have I ever found
anything more
than safety in numbers.
This is the new math
these are your problems
and I was born
before the back of the book.
What I have been saying is this:
I can lead you
only so far into wisdom.
Soon
you must begin to learn
how to be ignorant
on your own.
John Stone was both poet and cardiologist; "Helping with the Math Homework" appears in *Music from Apartment 8* (Louisiana State University Press, 2004) . Elizabeth Savage's poem "Jane & Paige *or *Sister Goose" appeared in 2009 in *Court Green**.*
**Jane & Paige ***or *Sister Goose by Elizabeth Savage
Schoolwork isn’t hard for Jane
while Paige is held indoors
stuck on her fours
hands and feet count twenty
but twenty more remain
from pinky back to thumb
again then fail to divide
denying her the sun outside
morning recess pauses are plenty
for Paige to see herself as Jane
who thinks of threes as baby toys
and coolly eyes the nines
Paige soon learns to memorize
releases her joy and races past
the pangs of girlhood, the reign of math

JS is, in my opinion, a great poet!

ReplyDeleteHelping with the Homework by John Stone

ReplyDeleteVery wise poem. Starts out rather unsuspecting until one encounters the word "Wisdom"

what does wisdom have to do with math ?

and then he follows with:

"Soon

you must begin to learn

how to be ignorant

on your own."

Very slippery poet

I believe he is telling his daughter that while he can help her out all he is going to be able to show her is the right answer.

But until she stumbles along on her own suffering until she gets to the other side she is not gaining anything as a person.

Wisdom is obtain by learning from our own mistakes, not by learning how to avoid the mistakes of others.

David Perrings

dperrings@padesignresources.com