Do you ever wonder why so many main characters we see on TV and read about in books seem to be writers or artists or something people-related?

If you’re waiting for that engineer to become the star of the show, you’d probably better stick to Dilbert. Though Big Bang Theory might make it seem dorky in a good way. Both of those are outside the norm, and both of them poke fun at the profession.

It’s hard to imagine pages of someone working by himself in an office with a computer all day, who prefers not to converse or interact with others most of the time. Isn’t it? Yet that’s the stereotype. As a writer, we dramatize it as much as possible and try to connect with the emotions. The reader has to related to the character or she’ll stop reading.

Maybe the problem is so many people don’t connect to math. Logic and emotion don’t mix well.  You can call our society math-phobic, so it’d likely be a bad idea to write random equations in a fiction book.

That might be an idea for a short story. The target audience would be fairly small, but it might work. Coming soon for engineers, scientists, and math geeks only!

Continuing Education

What do you choose to do to further your education?

A friend mentioned that her job (and mine, come fall) requires some continuing education and for it she was studying from a book. I’d read the same book for a student I’m tutoring. (Kiss My Math by Danica McKellar) She appreciated that they college requires you to continue to refine your skills by learning.

I can appreciate that, too. My home library speaks to a lot of continued education through books on several subjects. I’m looking up other opportunities to keep skills fresh, as well.

Math might not pertain to writing, but it’s good to keep a lot of skills going. One thing I have always wanted to do is learn another language; I have a few phrases here and there but nothing fluent.

I’m always learning more about writing. With my new part-time employment gigs, it’s sometimes difficult to sort out what my primary function is. (After motherhood, of course!) I like to think I’m a writer, which means I need to focus on the written words.

My focus takes me to critique groups. I learn from the other writers as well as teach them things. I’ve been carting books back and forth from the library in order to hone my skills from published books in fiction and the writing section.

Plus I read and write and rewrite and edit and polish. Some of those are overlapping functions, but each has a special place in the writer’s agenda.

I currently need to finish the fiction book I’m reading by Jacqueline Carey that’s due tomorrow, plus one by Scott Westerfeld that will be due not too much longer.

Some days the difficulty lies in learning versus doing. If the doing (the writing) takes over, there is at least something to work with, something to fix. If the learning takes over, no output. There has to be a balance so both can be done for the betterment of my work. (Well, anyone’s work, I suppose.)

So another question: how do you think the experts learn more about their fields?

Math Doesn’t Suck

You might remember Danica McKellar better for her role on The Wonder Years as Winnie Cooper, or The West Wing as Elsie Snuffin. I didn’t know until I read her book that she’s also an internationally known mathematician.

Her first book is Math Doesn’t Suck and her second is Kiss My Math. Both of these approach the subject with examples, clear writing, and fun stuff to keep the teen/tween girl entertained.

I’m sure everyone’s wondering why I’m reading them. Well, sometimes it’s good to have a different take on it when you want to explain it to someone else, which is what I’ve been doing lately.

I am not fond of our society’s math-phobia, and I hope these books work toward helping young girls (because they’re definitely geared to girls) not be afraid of math.

The book has more than just math problems – it also has fun quizzes and questions and real-life examples of women who did well in math even if they didn’t start out understanding it well. Recommend them to the pre-teen in your life. I definitely will.

Geek Appeal

For Father’s Day, I gave my husband a book to read to our daughter. I’m not sure how amused he was, but it fits today’s topic, so I thought I’d give the authors a plug.

Science Verse is a fun picture book with rhymes about various things science-related. Some of them are taken off known songs or poems (Glory, glory, evolution). I just like to see the  take the authors did.

No, I swear I didn’t buy it just because it had the periodic table inside the front cover!

I’m putting the other book by the same authors, Math Curse, on my wishlist! They’re the perfect gifts for those geeky parents who wish to doom their kids, like I do. Wait, did I say that out loud?

Intimidation by Math

From my background in engineering, a certain level of math was required. I did very well in calculus, especially. Many of my classmates joked that once we finished calculus we lost the ability to count. It’s more likely that we had little practice counting when we were busy integrating the volume of a mug or other random object.

I find it interesting that so many people in our society are math-phobic. They refuse to see where they use math, ask questions like ‘what good is algebra in everyday life,’ and shy away from anything as complicated as long division. I also find it sad, though.

Math is like another language. Music is similar in that way. Some people understand it, and others don’t. The difference between speaking Math and speaking French – to someone who doesn’t know either – is one seems ‘geeky’ and the other seems ‘educated’. By the word ‘seems’ I mean that people view the person in a way, not that they actually are.

Some days I want to write a book to explain why math is beautiful, how it changed our society, and what wonderful things we can do because of it. I also want people to remember how they use it even when they think they’re not.

Common card and board games? Cooking from recipes? Paying bills? Maybe paying bills isn’t fun, but we’re required to do it, and all these things and more need math.

The question that’s really on my mind is: where did the fear of math come from and why is that fear embraced by so many?