Thursday, December 2, 2010

Will I really NEED algebra after school?

For those of us who create and teach mathematics, algebra is one of our much-used language skills.  We cannot imagine lives in which we do not write equations easily.  Thus inclined, we insist on the worth of algebra for students.   Taking an opposite view, here from Hanging Loose Press editor Robert Hershon  is an algebra-protest poem.  

   Life as Junior High School     by Robert Hershon

   You don’t think algebra is important
   Mrs. Masterson said
   but the day will come when you really need algebra
   You’ll be terribly sorry you didn’t pay attention
   When your life is in ruins and you are a laughing stock

   Ha! The joke’s on you, lady
   Decades have come and gone and
   never once, not for a second, did I ever think:
   Damn, if I only knew some algebra! Never once,
   not for an instant. My hair’s turned white and never a
   single regret -- ha ha ha ha ha

   Unless -- that moment is still waiting up ahead,
   when I’m 92 and trying to remember my shoe size,
   my middle name, how many children I have . . .
   And algebra might be the only answer!
   I stand in the road, drooling and baffled --
   and what’s that moving in the fog? Oh god,
   it’s Mr, Gorman, wearing his devil suit and
   waving a chemistry textbook

Reprinted from Calls from the Outside World, (c) by Robert Hershon, by permission of Hanging Loose Press.

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