Sunday, January 13, 2008

High School Math

I was good in high school math.  Really, really good.  I was successful in the corporate world.  Not a CFO, but I made it as high as I wanted to up the food chain.  I still like to play with retail store clerks by giving them $22.02 for a $16.77 check.  Preferably after they've entered $20 in the computerized register as amount tendered.    

For the last four years I've been deciding what I want to be when I grow up.  I realize most people do this in their 20's, but I've always embraced being a bit different than most people.  I decided that what I really want to do, maybe, is pursue my PhD.  I've researched b-schools, made my selection, requested my transcripts, collected letters of recommendation, and developed a proposal for my dissertation.  All that leaves on my to do list is taking the GMAT.  

The GMAT includes a verbal section and a 'quantitative' section.  The quant section supposedly covers high school math concepts.   By the end of the test, I was just hoping to see ONE question where I actually had a remote clue of how to calculate the answer.  

This experience led me to reflect on the differences between high school math and, well, real-life math:
1.  Never underestimate the power of being able to add and subtract without a calculator, in case you are working in a store and somebody messes up that automatic answer the register gave you.

2.  You will need to know how to set up an equation, and solve for X.  X may be how much money you have left over at the month after paying the bills, or it may how much car you can afford, or how weeks it will take at x lbs/week to meet your weight loss goal.  

3. You do need to know how to calculate area.  You may need to buy paint, or fertilizer, or something else that relies on area.

4.  Ditto for volume if you ever hope to own a pool.  Chemicals are expensive and it is critical to use the right amount.

5.  Probability is useful too.  Remember, the lottery is a tax on those who are poor at math.

6.  Exponents - can't recall using them in the last 25 or so years.  Anybody out there use exponents in their line of work?  Kilowatt designs big pieces of electronic equipment, and responds in the negative too.

7.  The dimensions of a triangle that lies within a circle - can't think of a use for that one either.

8.  Derivatives - not the financial kind, the calculus kind.  Nope, haven't needed that.  

So, am I missing something in my life by not knowing how to do all these mathematical equations?  I sure hope not, because I'm just not ready to take high school math again!

No comments: