The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse by Jennifer Ouellette
Penguin Paperback Original / On Sale: August 31, 2010
A few questions for Jennifer Ouellette:
What can parents do to help their kids become interested in math?
This is a tough one, because I suspect many parents are also rather insecure in their grasp of math once their kids get to algebra and calculus, and feel a little lost about how to help and encourage their kids in this area. I think the most important thing is not to actively discourage their kids from math and science. I once heard a teenaged girl admit to being curious about physics. Her mother—who clearly had a very bad high school experience with physics and calculus—overheard and assured her daughter that no, she didn’t want to take a physics class! It’s not fun at all and anyway, “You don’t like math and wouldn’t be good at it.” Now, it’s true that our math and physics curriculum in high school isn’t as fun as encountering physics and math in the outside world. But when will this young girl ever get to discover that math and science can be amazing and reveal hidden patterns in how the world works, if she’s actively discouraged from being interested by her own mother, while still in high school?
What is the one thing you now see in everyday life that you didn’t notice before starting THE CALCULUS DIARIES?
The world is filled with hidden connections and recurring patterns. Math describes nature at a very fundamental level and those underlying patterns are mostly invisible to those who don’t speak the language of Nature. For instance, I never realized that an exponential decay curve can describe the rate at which a cup of coffee cools, or the rate at which wet clothing dries, as well as certain processes in astronomy, economics and even population dynamics. Those seemingly very different things nonetheless are related mathematically; if you don’t “speak math,” or at least have a conceptual understanding of how it works, it’s much more difficult to see those connections. And yet they are there!