Friday, November 30, 2012


"A Tool That Does Suck Dust"

How to successfully explain how math works to a lit person:

1. Use metaphors.
2. Be funny.
3. Profit?
4. Sorry, we're really close to being done with "profit?"
5. Like how David Sedaris liked saying he had "finished his smoking," instead of "quitting."

28 Comments / Post A Comment


Time has taken much from me, it shan't take "Profit!" SHAN'T.


just watch once.@y

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@fondue with cheddar I loved that one. "Fire comes out here."

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@meetapossum "This end should point toward the ground if you want to go to space. If it starts pointing toward space you are having a bad problem and you will not go to space today."

hahahaha, ja.

"First, you're like, lol, that title almost sounds like it could be sexual innuendo."

The other day I was reading a paper that talked about plasma jets and these jets had heads that were penetrating things, and sometimes the jets were stripped and became naked, and there was an awful lot of emission. Also, it turns out that, under some conditions, the jets can have wider bases than heads.


@hahahaha, ja. Military reading is just awful for this kind of stuff. Long-range penetration patrols, for instance, are real things that exist in the world.


1. Math is really awesome.
2. Reading math papers is a head ache.
3. Everyone can be good at math if they just calm down about it.
4. What you should learn from math isn't the boring rules (because it's true no one cares how to graph different quadratic equations). What you should learn is how to apply a certain set of rules to certain kinds of problems.


@garli Math IS awesome & so are the people who are good at it and know it well.

But I will never be one of those people, because reading your comment almost gave me a panic attack. Can't calm down!


@fabel Ha! No, I believe in you! I used to tutor for extra cash and 90% of helping people is like, "ok, seriously let's just read this slow YOU CAN DO IT." I also taught for a bit at a school that only accepted special needs kids and I think everyone has the ability. Math doesn't bite. :)


@fabel I was that girl who cried in math class in third grade because I just. Did not. Get it.

Roxanne Rholes

@garli Oh man, I was never into math because it was so boring, and then I had friends in college that were math majors and everything they did sounded so cool! If anyone had told me, in high school, "if you get good at this, you can do trippy math that doesn't even have numbers, and it will blow your mind" maybe I would have put forth ANY amount of effort. Instead, I got "get good at this so you can manage your own accounting," which...snooze.


@garli Good for you! I thought I was really bad at math because in high school I did remedial math in the portables and it was mostly about making sure everyone could pass the TAKS and graduate, so there wasn't a lot of encouragement to be creative or think about it differently, which is what I really needed.

So I went on to be a lit major and then didn't use math again until I had to cram for the GRE (which looked a lot like cramming for the TAKS) and it was still a terrible experience.

But then I met an applied mathematician who was happy to talk about math in a way that made sense for me, kind of like an elaborate set of puzzles and games, and suddenly I realized that I am REALLY bad with numbers but actually quite good at logic and reasoning, which is what math minus the numbers is. And all my textual analysis skills are actually the same ones that I can use to think about math problems.

Then I learned about modular arithmetic and that fact that there are different sized infinite sets, but I learned about it through stories and analogies and pictures, so it was all cool.

Having written this, I realized that I probably need to go be a math tutor so another young lady doesn't think she's bad at math cause she mixes up numbers.


@Roxanne Rholes OMG me too! In high school they were like, "You better be able to balance a check book or you will fail at life." Which, why do I need algebra to do that?

But yes as soon as I discovered trippy math without numbers I was totally converted (too bad it happened when I'd already graduated college).


@adorable-eggplant You can still do it! I have a friend that went to film school, but then started getting into computer programming and read a bunch of math textbooks and is now considering going to grad school for computer science (which is basically just abstract math, you make the computer do all the number stuff).


@highfivesforall Ahahah!! That's so cool. I just learned javascript and have been going bonkers. Also, as soon as I realized I could write a function that would multiply and divide etc., I thought to myself, "Whelp, I'm never doing that by hand again."

So that could be me in a few years, except that I also love my current job/field.

ETA: The maniacal laugh at the beginning of my comment is because I'm amazed at the coincidence, not, you know, a crazy lady.


@adorable-eggplant Yeah math with numbers is for SUCKERS. I think every college math prof has a shirt or coffee cup that says "there's three kinds of mathematicians in the world, those who can count and those who can't".


@highfivesforall Ha, math on computers. I've been known to yell at the computer DO WHAT I WANT YOU TO DO NOT WHAT I TOLD YOU DO TO.

Sad thing is, they don't listen when you yell.


@smidge Oh, man, when I moved schools and had to do a bunch of placement tests, they told my parents that the disparity between my math and verbal skills was so great that if my verbal abilities suddenly dropped down to wear my math skills were, I would be considered mentally challenged. So I feel you on the crying in class thing.


It reminds me of Cisco IOS pretzel logic. "No shutdown" should never ever ever be command line syntax for turning something on!

(sorry I know this isn't slashdot)


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