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Greg Hewitt






Math, why?


Why teach these difficult lofty ideals of math to so many?  When are we ever going to use this?  "I'm never going to use this."  These are comments I have heard when math seems difficult.  


While it is good to question the way we spend our time, time spent on education is one of the few things that each individual is in total control of.  As we grow beyond the impetuousness of youth we find that doctors, computer scientists and many other professionals are required to take calculus.  Some say to make them better thinkers, others simply see it as a hoop that must be jumped through.  Everyone must answer this ultimately for themselves.

After several calculus classes and differential equations I took topology.  In topology one can mathematically compare the surface of an apple to that of an orange (they are surprisingly similar!)  Others to make fun of Kansas have compared the "flatness" of our state to that of an IHop pancake (pancakes are surprisingly curved!).  I, like many of my students, find these works of mathematics interesting but not worth much.  


Others studied the same material as me and considered the study of topology as it applies to the human eye, lasers and transformations from calculus.  Their efforts resulted in innovative laser surgery which gave me a way to walk away from glasses for many years. Still others found the fun in using topology to compare the flatness of Kansas to that of an IHOP pancake.   A former high school classmate working with a friend one night discussed the largely ignored part of a differential equation and found a use that became the cornerstone of today's routers, not to mention a very early retirement. While I studied programming the current explosion of convenient apps has provided a creative outlet and untold benefits to society.


I for one am glad that they were required to take difficult math courses and ended up using what they had learned to make the world a better place.  I am glad they chose to "use this".  Opportunity is all around us.  It is up to us to make of it what we will.

Greg Hewitt

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