Saturday, January 23, 2016

Not good at math . . .

     Connecticut poet Joan Cannon is a senior who laments her lingering anxiety over mathematics in her poem, "Humility," below.  I found Cannon's poem on Senior Women Web and it is accompanied there by selections from an article by Patrick Bahls entitled "Math and Metaphor:  Using Poetry to Teach Mathematics."  The complete article is available here.

     Humility    by Joan L. Cannon

     Archetypes, mysteries, simple clues
     that only fingers and toes, sticks and stones
     and flashes of inspiration require
     for universes to be disclosed ...
     symbols for functions and formulae
     for proof; logic so easy for some —
     why am I innumerate?  

     East is east and west is logic,
     and it’s said never will they meet.
     Yet in hieroglyphs and runes
     and Mayan masks, carven calendars,
     in the graceful limbs of Arabic,
     those signs beyond the Word
     beckon curiosity to span the voids.

      Plus and minus, powers, infinity ...
     zero, prime, sequences, fractals ...
     Euclid to Escher, Foucault and Fibonacci,
     Seuss to Einstein, abacus to gigabytes ...
     the world and wars and philosophy
     are in their hands, while I can only
     grope for a touch of understanding.

      Another aspect of "not good at math" concerns is the tendency of more than a few to brag about poor math skills.   A recent article in The Conversation speaks out about this attitude.  For a poem that opens with "Few people talk of mathematics at cocktail parties .  ." follow this link.

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