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The only happiness you can buy - ice cream - is correlated to drowning, and the wonderful squishiness of bread can kill. The only plausible response? Horror.
A teacher, a mentor, a role model, my Statistics teacher has taught me to look beyond the surface, to consider what confounding variables may be lurking beyond one’s immediate response. The year opened with a TED Talk, undermining my deeply held beliefs as mere exaggerations, assumptions, and stereotypes, a symptom of society’s impulse of frenzied worries and mislead fears. The power of statistics. What had it revealed? Perhaps the global population is not accelerating as fast as popular conjecture suggests, perhaps natural disasters are not running rampant as mass media implies, perhaps the human tendency to accentuate fear hinders our ability to use the very reason math teaches us. Ice cream’s correlation with drowning does not, in fact, imply causation and the initial horror only reveals my sugary obsession.
Beneath the mundane data crunching and monotonous equations is a world multiplied with life, connections waiting to be integrated, new angles on society awaiting solutions. I discovered the ability to think deeply. Rather than memorizing tedious computations, I was pushed to analyze what could be happening to shape the data, what rules could we have used to reach this answer, how we could apply what we have learned other questions. My vital realization was that mindless math rules can be replaced with an intrinsic understanding of what is happening. The wave of panic as I fail to recall the rules of exponents, or can’t decide between integral methods subsides as I remember to merely think well. I am reassured by her teachings that there are always multiple approaches to a problem - if one method fails, try another.
Her energy for mathematics has ignited my spark of curiosity. What else can be described by mathematics? The curve of a baseball as the leather ripples across the bat, the trajectory of a plane as it swoops in a dare devil dive, the mass of a gas giant light years away, even the similarities between a school teacher and sumo wrestler. I am captivated by the world around me, the sea of life pulsating, everything offering insight into the mechanisms of existence. Curiosity is the force that sends me madly scribbling in my notebook as a wave of questions submerges my brain, my thoughts accelerating faster than a 80 kg hot dog cart down a 80 degree incline (faster than 72.4 m/s squared to be exact - it’s ok, it was a homework question)
Statistics class has long come to a close, yet I still find this passion to question the world sending me wandering into her classroom, launching into a discussion on why the political polling of government class defies the restrictions of proper statistics, how faulty numerical analysis in psychology can yield disastrous results. Upon the close of each discussion, I am anchored by a single thought: think deeply, think well. She has taught me the world’s story cannot be defined by a single number, and neither will mine.