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 navigation's terrible! 

     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,
     Please invoke
     mathematical thought!

     But they do not reply
     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."

No comments:

Post a Comment