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Sydnee Goetz – The Art of Mathematics

In a split family of mathematicians and English majors, I have had my fair share of arguments about the importance of math. The first person to ever introduce me to the importance of mathematics was my father. Being the head manager of a mortgage company, my father knows his way around numbers. From the day I was taught 2+3=5 to the day I was solving hour long calculus problems, he always expressed to me the impact of numbers around us every day. We would be getting lunch and he would point out the architecture on buildings and explain the Archimedean spiral. Or play catch with me on the softball field and explain the force of gravity and how the resistance, weight, and the angle decide the force of my pitch. To him everything revolved around math, figuratively and quite literally because of the rotation of the earth and its’ 23.5 degree tilt axis. However, it was not until my senior year of high school that I really got the how big of a deal mathematics was in my life.

When faced with the question, “What is your major?” on 15 college applications I started to panic. It is so difficult to decide as a senior in high school what you want to spend the rest of your life doing. I was internal conflicted on how I was going to choose this huge life decision. It was not until late my senior year I finally got a hint on what I wanted to do. One day I was sitting I my calculus class learning about the applications of derivatives. For anyone that has taken calculus, they know that this subject is hard to wrap your head around at first. There is a lot of room for error because these problems become so tedious and lengthy. I had missed almost every one on my homework that night. I was so frustrated because when I went back to check where I went wrong, I was just as confused as ever. Over the next couple days my class kept layering on more rules and advanced problems, yet I was just not getting it. This subject just did not click, so to say, in my brain; which proved to be even more frustrating because I was generally very good at math. So, the next day I went back to school and talked to my teacher Mr. Hoffland during my lunch period and explain my confusion. He walked me through a practice problem and then had me try one on my own. While I was attempting to solve it, I asked the infamous question of, “What am I ever going to need this for, it’s not like you use this in real life.” and he chuckled. He replied back and said, “Well sure you will.” with a smile. I was taken back by this response because all of my math teachers in the past would agree and say that it was just part of life and it had to be learned to finish the chapter. Mr.Hoffland had a different view about math though, he was passionate about what he taught, unlike many teachers I had learned from in the past. He explained to me that our world revolves around the advancements of mathematics; without it how would be have voice activated cell phones and self-driven cars. It was not about the application of derivatives, but about the problem-solving skills it gave students to be able to figure out even harder math problems in the future. Then he even told me that radar guns and the profit margins of businesses all around the world actually use derivatives, so it had to be useful in some way. Right as he finished explaining this to me I completed my problem and sure enough I finally got a problem right.

Mathematics gives you a feeling of satisfaction unlike any other form of knowledge. It was that day I realized Mr. Hoffland was a lot like my father; he saw the numbers in everything. It made me appreciate the art of mathematics and helped me decide that I wanted to be able to do something that gave me that same satisfaction for a career. It is people like my father and Mr.Hoffland that continuously remind me that this world was built on mathematics. Math is an universal language that can be understood where ever you go; at least by those smart enough to understand it.

Sydnee Goetz

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