Nature verses the local grocery...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Math Trails; a game of numbers

I chuckled as I read my friend's post on her dislike of Algebra. Gosh, I thought, how can someone NOT enjoy Algebra!? It's the neatest game since Tinker toys. Then, my famous, solitary attempt with Calculus...slowly crept into my brain - painfully. (It's amazing how fast that proverbial pedestal can crumble when you look it in the eye.)

Indeed, math is all about how it fits for your particular brain. A whiz in Algebra, I did well my first two weeks in Calculus; after all, it's really all about Algebra, right? For the beginning, yes. Then, slowly, painfully, the word limits appeared on the new chapter page. My mathematical whizzing...whizzed right out the door! Stress entered my life - in a new color called OVERWHELMED! The next 14 weeks were a constant struggle, filled with hours of re-reading chapter explanations, numerous trips to the prof's office, three page-long problems and a hired tutor, who yawned through most of my teary sessions. (Poor guy).

So, that said, I now empathize with my friend, and we do occasional Algebra problems together.

If you are struggling with Algebra, there are free resources available. The easiest I've encountered is a website called Purple Math. (I Love purple!) The folks at Purple Math (they even have a forum), not only have the clearest, most simplistic explanations I've seen anywhere, but they offer free help, too.

But this is a Nature blog, you mention; how is Nature involved in math? Well, maybe it's not exactly her cup of tea. But the key here is, to understand certain parts of Nature, math is a golden key.

To set up the perfect trajectories for space flight, Calculus rules. The concept of limits I mentioned before, is the basis for formulating these trajectories. I'll bet the Astronauts are REALLY glad their counterparts at the consoles in the NASA control centers did their homework!

When you begin a new addition to your horse barn, the Geometry you may have struggled through, lets you arrange triangles on the ground (the 3, 4, 5 kind), to assure your foundations are straight and squared correctly.

The measurements you hated to figure out in math, now help you make a perfect bread recipe.

And the conversions you dealt with, taking inches to centimeters, now give you the tools necessary to interpret sewing and wood-working patterns.

To function in Nature, to understand her complexities and to be able to move through the world she provides, math is an invaluable partner, tried and true. It will not forsake you; its formulas are precise and their perfection supports your correct decisions through many of Nature's problems.

So now I smile with a bit more understanding for my friend. Besides, she's extremely intelligent, and has several mathy friends; she'll do well in her Algebra homework. When she explains the technicalities of creating a website - I cry! She's an awesome writer, too.

If you have Algebra headaches, check out the Purple Math website. They know their stuff over there and more importantly, they have a knack for simplicity, the key (IMO), to understanding any math.

Nature prevails.


  1. OMG - I so recognize myself in the mix. I'm SO not mathematical. The creative side of my brain simply does not function in numbers. Productive thinking at it's best is not my forte. Give me words and colors please...

    But, the ransom of creative thinking is adding it all up. Thanks for all the math helps.


  2. Hi Jan,

    I so understand about the 'productive thinking' idea; my husband shows me over and over (for about 18 years now), how to work the remote for the TV/VCR/DVD connection. "It's SO simple", he pleads. Yet over and over, it slips by me. "Can't we just make it so the knobs on the TV work like they did for Rin Tin Tin...and Sky King...and Lassie?", I beg. He groans as he takes the remote, and works his magic!

    Always a pleasure to have you stop by Trails of Nature.



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