## Friday, December 18, 2015

### A student writes poetry for a math class . . .

A recent fun experience for me has been correspondence with Melanie Simms, a poet and math student at Pennsylvania's Bloomsburg University, where I taught for a bunch of years.  Melanie recently completed the course "Mathematical Thinking" -- a course that I helped to develop during my years at BU and one for which I wrote a textbook (Mathematics in Daily Life:  Making Decisions and Solving Problems, McGraw-Hill, 1986).   The course was developed to offer general quantitative skills for students majoring in fields (such as English or Art)  that do not have a specific mathematics requirement.  Melanie's instructor for the course, Paul Loomis, is a singer and songwriter and, with him as first reader, Melanie composed a mathematical poem involving course material.  She has shared the poem with me and has given me permission to post it here.

The Mathematics of Chance      by Melanie Simms

The gods of chance
Have left me skewed
My distribution, variable!
With ranges far, and ranges wide

My compass finds no peace of mind
With scattered correlations
And so I seek outside the range
for divine inspiration.

As I set  my course upon the sea
I find an island near
and meet the bearded wise man
at the board of "here and here"
with pi's and squares and soft brown hair
he sets me on a path,
and off I go, and lose myself
and then we have to laugh!

In final desperation
I call out to the gods,
Shesheta, Horus, Thoth,
mathematical thought!

And I find myself dismayed..
I'm just  a lonely outlier
on the shore of "cant be saved."

Alas I have concluded:
I may never know the measurements
precisely of the trees
or calculate the finer angles found within a breeze
but my mode of transportation
will be my heart and soul
and no matter how I calculate
I am destined for my goal!

So skew me right or skew me left
or hit me with a pi
But know this now and know it well
I'll aim my chances high!

Melanie Simms' most recent poetry collection
is Remember the Sun (Sunbury Press, 2014).
She was a featured reader for the December 2015
gathering of River Poets at the Bloomsburg Public Library.

Here is a link to a great article by Patrick Bahls entitled "Math and Metaphor: Using Poetry to Teach College Mathematics."