Sunday, July 31, 2016

Loving the difference quotient ... and more ...

     From Philadelphia poet-mathematician, Marion Cohen, a new collection  -- Closer to Dying (Word Tech, 2016).  When I received the book a few days ago and began to read I did, of course, seek out mathy poems.  Two of these are included below. In this first poem Cohen has some fun with the terms and symbols of introductory calculus.  In the second, she tells of an encounter of the sort that happens to many mathematicians  -- meeting someone who supposes that mathematicians do what calculators do. (This link leads to a collection of mathy poems (including ones by Cohen) at talkingwriting,com.)

Ambivalence towards Calculus     by Marion Deutsche Cohen

I love the difference quotient.
I love all quotients.
And I love epsilon.
And lim.
And little arrows
when they aren't vectors.
But I don't know about slope.
Or integrals.
Especially definite integrals.
And when I love triangles
is when they don't mean increment.
But yes, I love different-quotient.
But what about quotient-difference?
What about quotient-log?
When I learned calculus, what did I not learn?
When I gained calculus, what did I lose?

Math on the Train       by Marion Deutsche Cohen

I was working on that associative arithmetics problem, testing out
          examples and counter-examples so the page was filling up
          with cute little integers.

A kid came over, skinny, green mohawk.  "I have a calculator."

He held it out to me.  "You're doing those calculations.  You
          can borrow my calculator."

"Oh," I smiled.  "Thanks very much but I'm not doing that kind of

I wanted to take him up on his offer

but I wasn't doing what calculators do.

A search of this blog using Cohen's name will yield some of her limericks and several other poems.

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