Excellence, Math and Other Important Things


My daughter, Julia, is named after a French mathematician who discovered the Julia group of fractals. When trying to come up with a name, I had tried everything from the Internet to the Magic Eightball. Still, nothing fit. I was out of town on a business trip – this is how I started most sentences for the past twenty years, one of the reasons for leaving my old company. Talking to me on the phone, my husband turned to our daughter and said jokingly,

“So, do YOU have any ideas on what Mom should name her new company?”

Julia responded immediately,

“She should name it after me!”

In the end, this is quite appropriate since we plan to develop on-line courses in mathematics, physics and computer science as part of our new product line. Don’t panic, we are still doing courses on disability as well. In fact, you can check out our latest course on Autism in Early Childhood.

Today, Julia asked me how my company was going and what we were doing. I explained that I was creating a math course. She wanted to know if it was like some of the math games she had played on the computer. When I told her no, it wasn’t like that, I thought those games missed the point, she wanted to know why I would create something that wasn’t just fun. After all, didn’t everyone want to have fun all of the time.

“It’s like this… Imagine you had an idea for a building. You could get some paper, color it, tape it together and make a sort of building really fast and have fun doing it. Or, you could make a real, amazing skyscraper. That would take you a long time and not all of the parts would be fun. Some would be boring. You would have to calculate how big the base of it had to be so it didn’t tip over. You’d have to measure the bricks exactly and figure out exact measurements so that everything fit together and your building didn’t fall apart. You might have to learn some other stuff, like science, and earthquakes and how to build things to withstand stress so that the first time there was an earthquake, your building doesn’t fall down.

Here’s my point – once you get the building done, it will be amazing and that thing you could  have made with paper, crayons and tape will be like nothing next  to it. On the way to getting there, though, you have to work, and sometimes learn boring stuff, and sometimes it’s hard and sometimes it might even feel like you’ll never understand it all.

Really learning math is like that. You have problems and you try to figure them out. Once you do, it’s really cool and fun. In the beginning, though, it can be hard. You just need to keep in mind that in the end it will be amazing.”

She thought about this for a moment and then asked me why anyone would make a building out of crayons and paper if they could make a skyscraper. I told her that for some people that was the best they thought they could do. Other people didn’t even know where to begin. Some people plain just didn’t want to do the work.

She said,

“Oh, you mean like people that lay around and get drunk, do drugs, don’t go to college , don’t do their homework and get knocked up?”

I asked her where on earth she heard such ideas. She just shrugged and said,

“I know things.” Then she added, “I think it would be great to build a skyscraper.” skyscraper.jpg

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