Let's face it, I'm a words kinda guy. Always have been, always will be.
But I also work at IBM.
IBM, the company that helped transform the language of math into the language of computers and of business.
The company that developed Fortran back in the 1950s, the acroynm for which was derived from "IBM Mathematical For
Hey, you learn something new every day.
Numbers and math underly just about everything we do at IBM.
And as much as I'm a words guy, I also have to do math for my job all the time.
I have to do travel expense accounting after I take a business trip (which requires a near PhD in math for currency conversions after an international trip).
I have to work with my Web metrics teams to figure out how many searches and visits we get on our Web site every month.
I have to build business cases for Web investments that demonstrate how we'll bring more beans in than what we spent for whatever investment we might be requesting (I'm really good at the numbers behind those ; )
So being a words guy, I've always had a love/hate relationship with math.
I did pretty well in algebra and chemistry, both of which were math heavy, but geometry and physics were lost on me. The only proof that I could prove in junior high school geometry was that I couldn't do
That, if they were dependent upon my geometry savvy for launching the space shuttle, that sucker would be comfortably resting on the launch pad in Cape Canaveral for years to come.
Flash forward to college, where I had to take a five hour
trigonometry/pre-calculus course in order to graduate.
I was completely panic-stricken. Particularly so, when I realized there was no way out of it.
But, then I became completely determined to pass this class. I'd spent nearly seven long years pursuing my undergraduate degree. I wasn't slow [except for geometry]...I just really liked college.
But it was time to go, and this trig/precal class was the only thing standing in my way.
I took advantage of as many resources as I could get my hands on to understand the theorems and sines and cosines and all the rest of it.
I stared and stared and stared at the problems and formulas trying to make some sense of it all. They all began swirling around my linguistically-oriented brain like so many jumbled sentence fragments.
Higher math was Greek to me: literally and figuratively.
But there was one individual who made all the difference.
He was actually an older fraternity brother who made his living tutoring and teaching math. We called him "Old Crow."
Old Crow would spend several hours with me a week that semseter, walking me through both the fundamental logic as well as the representative problems behind pre-cal. He would use real-world examples to try and shine some light on the rationale behind the math.
And every once in a while, a light would appear as if from the heavens as I would nod my head that I "got it," and we would move on to the next, seemingly more complex concept.
I have no doubt I might have been able to pass that class without Old Crow's help.
But with his assistance, I not only passed the class, I took a strong "A" when grades were issued, having mastered the final exam with a "95." More importantly, I understood the concepts behind the problems.
That's a very long way of segueing to our current feature story
entitled "Will I ever use this stuff," an examination of the state of mathematics and its critical importance to innovation today in virtually every industry.
And the answer is unequivocably "yes," you will use that math somewhere along the way, even if it's only for those tricky expense reports.
But boy oh boy, will you feel smarter when you do them.[Read More