Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Is Math for Women?

At a River Poets reading at the public library in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania on December 1, 2011, Carol Ann Heckman surprised me with her poem, "The Calculus Road Not Taken," presented below.  Not only is she a fine poet, but Carol Ann is curious about mathematics.  As a college student she was turned away by negative feedback from a math professor. But now she is reassessing her situation and ready to tackle calculus. Here she has fun with her calculus-deprived situation in lively verse:

The Calculus Road Not Taken   by Carol Ann Heckman  

               for JoAnne Growney

If I had only conquered
this wouldn't have
happened--the flood,
the earthquake, the
two hurricanes
in succession

I would have learned
the secret

I would have known
the answer

I would have succeeded
on all counts
and become
wealthy and

I would have maintained
my balance:  the median
and the mean, and
the in between

Calculus, O Calculus!

would have protected me
lifted me
my survival.

My brain, all
my systems
would have been fully
functioning:  optimum, supreme, prime,
over and super

All of my functions
would have been
a perfect system

There would have been
a proof and a
theory:  I would have known
to turn right
of left.

Calculus, O Calculus!

It was a word unexplored
an unexplored
word, a world I didn't enter:

the missing L
word missing
the L
word and world
word and world

made all
the difference.

For Carol Ann's introduction to Calculus, I have suggested she might enjoy Infinity by Lillian Lieber.

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