Gosh, *SHOULD* I learn about the rich history of math?

June 16, 2008

The other day at Indian Springs, while eating cherries and debating if I should take my shirt off and go in the pool, I was reading the latest issue of Harpers. The issue was fantastic, with a delightful article on The Magic Olympics (concerning the best type of magic: close-up tricks, i.e. not stuff concerning making a jet appear or anything to do with lions or tigers).

My eye was caught by a stunning three column ad for The Teaching Company that would reveal itself to be a masterwork of copy writing. I like ads that prey on my curiosity and desire, despite being lazy, to become smarter. I mean, it worked for PBS in getting me to watch that thing about the guy who solved that old guy’s problem.

That ad contains an eye-catching 3-D rendering of π and a deliciously inveigling comment about Archimedes, the ancient bad ass. From the opening line, the ad spoke to me: I have wondered about numbers! I have wished to learn more about them! It would seem that an esteemed member of the math community (Professor Edward Burger) was practically giving this knowledge away, and all he asked was for a thirty minutes of my time and a tiny seventy dollar charge. That’s around three dollars per lecture! Admittedly, I would probably just listen to the "Story of π" and promised myself that I would listen to the rest…"later."

If I could walk away from this summer knowing a little bit more about math, well, then that would be ok.

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