Daily Archives: October 7, 2009

By the numbers.

There was a particular lament I remember hearing frequently as I was going through school: “When will I ever use this in the real world?”  It might have been in English class, or history, or science, or math, or most likely, all of the above.  Now that I think about it, I was probably doing the asking at various times, especially when I didn’t feel like working very hard in a class or on an assignment.  Nevertheless, I am here today to tell you that I use math every day.  For schedules, budgets, measuring improvement and decline; and that’s just at work.  I use it at home to bake, to make curtains, to see how many pages of a book I have to read each day in order to return it on time.  I can sometimes spend a little too much time calculating and not enough actually doing, but that’s just because I enjoy it so much.

Recently, I’ve been doing some calculations that I don’t enjoy so much.  For example, how many of our magazine slots will be empty if we cut our magazines by 35%?  [The answer: 60.] 

Our soon to be much emptier magazine room.

Our soon to be much emptier magazine room.

How many programs will be eliminated with a 50% cut in evening hours at Main?  [The answer: not sure yet, we just got this news yesterday.]  How much money would it cost each resident of Pittsburgh over the age of 18 to make up the projected $6 million budget shortfall the library is trying to prevent with these cuts? [The answer:  $25.  Feel free to make a donation now!]  Truth is, my math skills don’t extend quite this far, but thanks to CMU’s Center for Economic Development, I know that for every $1 spent on Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, we provide over $6 in benefits, which answers the sophisticated version of the above question, “What is the return on my investment?”

Now let me give you eight ways that the library can help you, specifically, with both your math skills and your relationship to math:

  1. Business Math Demystified, by Allan G. Bluman
  2. Everyday Math Demystified, by Stan Gibilisco
  3. All the Math You’ll Ever Need: a Self-teaching Guide, by Steve Slavin
  4. Fear of Math: How to Get Over It and Get on with Your Life, by Claudia Zaslavsky
  5. How Math Explains the World: a Guide to the Power of Numbers, from Car Repair to Modern Physics, by James D. Stein
  6. The Numbers Game: the Commonsense Guide to Understanding Numbers in the News, in Politics, and in Life, by Michael Blastland and Andrew Dilnot
  7. Geekspeak: How Life + Mathematics = Happiness, by Graham Tattersall
  8. The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul: What Gnarly Computation Taught Me About Ultimate Reality, the Meaning of Life, and How to Be Happy, by Rudy Rucker


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