Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fear of math

California poet Carol Dorf is a high school math teacher (and has taught in a science museum) -- and images from math and science permeate her work.  An article on math anxiety (and its connections to the brain) in today's Washington Post brought to my mind this poem of hers: 

   The Fear of Math is the Fear     by Carol Dorf

   Ruthless hexagons tessellate across the space
   of a tiled wall; a long street at night, lighted intervals
   provide unwanted perspective on distance; running
   out of time before running out of numbers;
   the way a grandmother says, "That's enough now dear,"
   before you've even passed three hundred and seven.

   Moment of proof, as in knowing that you are in love,
   whether or not the other reciprocates. Moment of proof,
   when showing the second case follows naturally/logically
   from the first, and therefore the third will follow.
   This is the fear of pattern, that one betrayal implies
   a second, and all subsequent failures of connection.

Dorf's poem originally appeared in Unlikely 2.0.  Her poem "Dear Ivar" was posted in this blog on 28 April 2010 -- part of a series of "Poems starring mathematicians."  (Addisional poems about mathematicians appear in these 2010 posts:  14 April, 15 April,  26 April, and 23 March.)

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