Over the years I have seen several ways to teach math come and go. Some involved having fingers that tapped out mission control statements on counter tops where a simple problem of 40 times 16 was played out tip tappity tap to come up with 640. I used a pencil and paper or my brain. A few were bound to teach with apples and oranges and then threw in a plum just for good measure.
Algebra was just new to the mix when high school hit me in the face. As I look back over my varied life, my algebra book would have come in handy a few times. You know, when I needed to be less than 3.7856 but more than 3.6833 inches high to reach the cookies on the top shelf over the refrigerator that holds 23.936 cubic feet of cold milk.
Now don’t get your hair in the air. If I had gone into many lines of mathematical ventures, I am more than sure algebra would have come in handier than just to add to my height. But. Yes, a Y+X=Z “but.” I took a road less traveled and over time became a woman, wife, widow, writer, and inspirational speaker. All aspects of my life needed basic math and I am good at basically anything.
Then came computers and the “aftermath of after-math” life. Changing life forever. Like fire and the wheel. Computers are no doubt wonderful magical additions to life. Hey, I use mine daily. I couldn’t get “Is This You?” to my wonderful accepting newspapers in a timely fashion if it were not for my plastic box of bytes and bits. I am all for computers. Well up to a point.
I was recently reading an article all about “AI.” First of all, it took me like four paragraphs to figure out what in the world “AI” meant. It took that long to realize the article was not about Artificial Insemination. Because that’s where my farming life took me when I saw “AI.” No in this article “AI” was Artificial Intelligence. Oh boy what a difference there is between insemination and intelligence. Well one would hope so.
I read the article. Well OK, honestly, I read the captions and the bigger spots of text that were italicized to draw the reader in. I am a skimming reader at best. Overall, the writer was all for made up smarts. That’s my version of artificial intelligence, made up smarts. It seems to me that one of the first lines I learned when learning of computers was, “Garbage in. Garbage out.” That was right after the “Read The Screen” was drilled into my head. Wouldn’t you think that no matter what a machine that is said to have artificial intelligence has, it is somehow, in some way linked to whoever put the real intelligence in it? I mean the word “artificial” gave me my first clue. We best move along before my laptop comes to life and eats my face off.
The math today, because I lead a very simple existence, is not much more than how much will I get back on my tax return. Not a whole lot of calculations and lines of numbers and letters in my math life. I like that even though there are genius level IQ people who can put things up into the universe and down to the bottom of the ocean, I can still do all the math I need in my head. I read a thingy the other day that hit the nail on the head. In like-minded words it said something like this. When math brought in letters I went to recess. I too went to recess.
Right about the time letters and basic math were wed the calculator quietly slipped in. Again, don’t get your hair in the air if you are all about moving forward with all the wonderfulness of computers and computing and all it has done for us. Me included. I play solitaire, just plain solitaire sometimes on my computer. But for that nostalgic feeling I find myself picking up a real deck of cards, sitting on the floor and playing solitaire. I still like the smell of a deck of cards and there’s something rewarding when I pick a hair or two out of a deck of cards that is picked up off the carpet after a good shuffle.
I suppose I just find that over the years of inventions that the wheel and fire were very cool. We haven’t had to give the wheel and fire AI. Intelligence not insemination. Like basic math of 2+2=4, the wheel and fire came into being and they were already smart.
Trina Machacek lives in Eureka. Her books are available wherever you buy books or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to buy signed copies.