Bernie Block: How To Get Pi-Eyed

I called my favorite friend Ben, a math teacher, and told him that a mathematics museum had opened on December 12, 2012, which sounded from the date like it was quite neat in that it had innovative exhibits that engage folks from 105 to five years old.

“Ben, did you hear about the new math museum, called the National Museum of Mathematics (or MoMath for short) opened in New York City and has innovative exhibits that engage folks from 105 to five years old?”

“Yes,” he replied. “I’ve donated some money to the creators to help get it started.” “What can you tell me about it?”

“Well,” Ben continued, “it has a mathematical art gallery showcasing changing exhibits that explore the relationship between math and art. There are activities that highlight the role of mathematics in our society and reveal the connections between math and music, math and literature, and math and finance. And, it has a simple history of mathematics and how it started.

It’s located at 134 West 26th Street in New York City, which is between Fifth and Madison Avenues.”
“Sounds interesting,” I replied. “Could you give me a short history about how math started and what’s happening with it today? I’m trying to get my son interested in the subject, especially since I know there is a shortage of math teachers, so he shouldn’t have trouble finding and keeping a job in that specialty.”

“You are right about there being a shortage because it is not an easy subject. In fact, most kids in school hate it, and we teachers keep looking for a way to make it ‘Jazzy’ and easy to understand. So far, we have a long way to go.
“However, I can give you a history and what’s happening today, but it will take a little time. Call me when you thing we will both have the time.”

“Thanks, I’ll call you.” Boy was I ever sorry that I said I would call! I did some research on the Internet and found out that it would be a long history lesson, and the prospects of getting my son interested would take some time to convince him to go down that road. However, you have to try when it comes to your children.
Bill and I were sitting in my den ready to have a talk about mathematics a few weeks later.

“The history of mathematics is interesting if you would want to teach it,” Bill started. “While it began long ago, the oldest known possible mathematical object is the Lebomo bone, discovered in Swaziland and dated to approximately 35,000 B.C. It consisted of 29 notches cut into a baboon’s fibula which showed the earliest demonstration of sequences of prime numbers or a six month lunar calendar. There are other findings from Africa and France that suggest early attempts to quantify time.

“Many countries and people were involved in early math, including the Babylonians, Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese, and Islamists. From the Middle Ages bursts of mathematical creativity were often followed by centuries of stagnation. The Renaissance in Italy started a new era of mathematical creativity. I won’t go into each step in mathematics, but go to Wikipedia on the internet and check the stories there for more details,” Ben said.

He paused for a few minutes to catch his breath, but you could see he truly loved his subject. “In the 19th century, math became increasingly abstract, while in the 20th century it became a major profession. All of the disciplines in the subject, algebra, calculus, geometry, logic, numbers, statistics, trigonometry, writing numbers, prime numbers, irrational numbers…and education are growing larger, especially since computers are more important and powerful.”

Ben paused again in his dissertation and asked, “Can I have a glass of water, please?” I went to the kitchen to get him one, returned, and he grabbed the glass and quickly consumed its contents.

“That’s better,” he said. “Now where was I? Oh, yes, continuing the history of mathematics, “My suggestion would be to go to that new museum. I think you’ll get a better description about not only the history, but what’s in the future on the subject.”

As a conclusion to our discussion, Ben finally said, “You know, of course, that Pi is probably one of the most-used symbol in mathematics. It is a constant that is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter and is equal to 3.4159. It even got a celebration day named after it.”

One could say it’s a way to get a little pi-eyed (intoxicated) on the subject of mathematics, along with its symbol…. 


Chicago-based 84-Year-Old Female Still Going Strong…Velma Robinson, a resident of Friendship Village, has won more than 60 medals, achieving six at the last home run derby. She is an honorary member of the Schaumburg Boomers, which also hosts young players during the season.
ONE-LINE HUMOR…I’m in the “initial” state of my golden years. CDs, IRAs, AARP.

Bernie is a real person who resides in one of our Brookdale communities. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Brookdale Senior Living.

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