Fun With Numbers

Chaos in Print

For those who have the patience to read my 5000 page rants, you may have noticed that, in several of these rants, I’ve drawn allusions to a young woman in my class whom I have a crush on. Apparently, this has become quite the hot topic of gossip in my class as to who my secret crush is. After all, I am the quiet, creepy kid. I’m sure that all the girls in my class, as they say their prayers every night, throw in the line, “And dear God, please, tell me I’m not Mark’s secret crush!” Anyway, it’s time for the rumour and innuendo to end. I told my class three weeks ago that I’d announce who my secret crush is right here, in this very issue, and this very article.

But first, I’d like to take a minute to talk about math.

If there’s one thing that really ticks me off, it’s people who don’t like math. Math is such an integral part of everyday life. When you’re trying to figure out if you’ve got enough money to buy more beer, that’s math. When you’re cruising down the highway, and you’re trying to figure out if you’ll stop in time before hitting that little old lady, that’s math. So, since you use it everyday, how come the main response I always get is this: “Math! Owe! Numbers make my brain hurt!”

I’ve made no secret that I’ve been through this post-secondary education thing once before. Got my degree in math, of all things. That’s where you learn how all the great philosophers and scientists felt about numbers. The sign over Plato’s academy read, “Let no one enter here who is ignorant of math.” Galileo once wrote that math is the language in which God wrote the universe. I much prefer something that one of my more arrogant professors said. Math, he said, is the master science that underlies all. With a good understanding of math, a person can pick up any textbook and get the gist of it.

Yeah, knowing math does tend to give a person a superiority complex. But then, can you blame us? When the average person hears the words “long division,” they run screaming from their desks. But we, the few, the proud, the mathematical, we roll up our sleeves and get to it. Mathematicians are like firefighters and police officers in that sense. When others run from danger, we run towards it.

I don’t run towards danger as much as I used to. After being thrust into the real world, I found that there’s not much call for mathematicians these days. Even now, as I learn the delicate art of piecing together a radio commercial, there’s not a lot of math involved. Now, I’m a hobbyist mathematician. I tackle math problems the way you work at a crossword or a jigsaw puzzle. I scratch out the odd solution to Fermat’s Last Theorem, and then go outside and get a breath of fresh air.

I still love numbers. Numbers are my playthings. They dance for me. And they can dance for you, too. So, dear people of NAIT, I only have this one humble request for you. Math is fun and a lot easier than you think. Next time you’re staring down at the page at a math problem, don’t run screaming. Remember, you have the skills. You have the knowledge. You can work through the problem. And, once you’re on the other side and you see you have the right answer, you’ll wonder what you were so afraid of to begin with.

And, let’s not forget my absolute favourite part of math: cryptography. That’s making and breaking secret codes. So, without further ado, I’d like to say that my secret crush in my class is:

42 57 57 67 22 107 22 87 97 22 57 57

Get to it, hackers. If anyone out there actually manages to break this code, let me know. E-mail me at Or, you can call my radio show, Chaos in a Box, every Wednesday at 5 on NR92. The number is 471 – 8833. Let’s sweeten the pot. If you actually can break the code, I’ll buy you lunch at Ernest’s. Remember, not only will you win a free lunch, you will make a woman in Radio & Television very, very embarrassed.

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