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April 26, 2017

Count on it

April 26, 2017

“It was at these sessions where I first started to fall in love with math.” Hmmm…I have to say, that just doesn’t compute with me. I really can’t comprehend a statement like that. Want to know what else I can’t comprehend? Math. Well, at least higher math. I mean, I’m not a complete slug when it comes to the subject. I was even in some advanced placement classes in high school. I could do the work, for the most part. (Until I took pre-calculus in college, which I’ve written about previously.) I just never fell in love with it. Words, I loved – numbers and I were just mere acquaintances that I had to make polite conversation with.

I saved very little memories from high school classes, but I recently came across an algebra test of story problems. I had earned a perfect score – the only one in the class. It’s the test that moved me into an AP course and after all these years, somehow, I had still saved it. I’d like to say I saved it because that’s when I started to love math, but I think it was more a matter of proving that I could conquer it.

I’m certainly not the only one who feels this way. My co-worker, Jen, stopped by my office yesterday and I mentioned to her the math-lover’s blog from which I was reading (whom I referenced above). She said, “Math? Nope. I just came for the pi.” Which, I had literally just typed into my notes to use in my blog. Seriously. That’s why we work so well together – a love of baked goods and really dumb humor. Well, that and because she’s a pretty fantastic colleague. Anyway, my point is, plenty of people don’t love math. But, thank goodness there are plenty of Spartans who do. Math really is a cornerstone for discovery and touches our lives in ways I couldn’t begin to imagine.

I’m guessing many of you didn’t know that April is National Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month. (But I bet you know when National Pi(e) Day is.) As much as I don’t love it, I can totally appreciate the need to celebrate it. Life would be a lot worse off without math, and the people who love and study it.

Thomas Grubb is the student who wrote the comment above about loving math. He’s a wicked smart Dean's Research Scholar senior majoring in mathematics. The sessions he speaks of are training sessions for a ridiculously hard and prestigious math test, the Putnam Competition. Check out his STUDENT VIEW: The pursuit of higher math, to learn more about this intelligent young man and just how hard the competition is.

George Pappas also loves math. A professor of mathematics, he says, “It’s fun to think about this stuff.” I can honestly say I’ve never considered math fun, but I’m really glad he does. Read his FACULTY VOICE: By the numbers, to learn more about leading-edge research.

I look at mathematicians, and think, “Wow, I don’t know how they do it.” But, maybe they look at me and wonder how I can possibly spend my days with so many words. Or that I love public speaking. Different strokes for different folks. It really does take all kinds to make the world go around. 

Working in health care is something else many of us would find hard to do. Saving lives, dealing with pain, suffering and death are pretty tough things to face every day. But, just like math, there are plenty of Spartans who aren’t put off by it at all. In fact, it’s their passion. Nursing student Roberta Dankyi, is passionate about wanting to transform health care in her native Africa. She traveled all the way to MSU to learn how to do that. Watch the short MSUToday FEATURE video: Taking Care, to learn more about this determined young woman.

Saving lives, researching higher math – simply part of an ordinary day for Spartans all over the world. Whatever needs to be done, Spartans will find a way to do it. No matter what you love, when you’re a Spartan the possibilities are endless when it comes to following your passion. Opportunities plus determination and smarts – it all adds up to Spartans changing the world for the better. You can count on it. Spartans Will.

Lisa Mulcrone
Editor, MSUToday
twitter bird@LMulcrone