# My M.A. stands for “Mathematicians Anonymous”

My name is Rhoda, and I’m a mathematician.

I’ve been doing math since I was a little kid. My parents did it sometimes and it didn’t seem like a big deal, so I didn’t even think about whether it was right or wrong, or even a good idea, when I was offered my first math problem.

That single hit was all it took. Since then, I’ve been doing math almost every single day! Sometimes, I don’t even realize it. It feels normal..but I know, because my friends never miss an opportunity to tell me, that it is not normal.

In college, I tried to quit. I was a chemistry major at first. I made it almost two whole years. Of course, I still did math on the side…a little calculus here, a little linear algebra there…until one day I realized, while doing unit conversion for my chemistry homework, that I had somehow managed to bring math into science.

I was horrified… but also ashamed. I tried talking to my chemistry professor, but I couldn’t bring myself to admit to her that I’d been doing math in her class. She never would have looked at me the same way. Shortly after that, I gave up on chemistry and switched to mathematics, where I could do math full-time.

After college, when I left town, I resolved to leave math behind me. But I wasn’t in St Louis for more than a few months before I started attending calc 3 class at a community college where I wasn’t even enrolled. I made excuses. I hadn’t actually learned any Calc 3 as an undergrad because I didn’t go to that class. It was too early, and I was exhausted from staying up all night doing other math. Doing math seemed okay if I was just studying it.

But I was wrong. Calculus was the gateway drug. Before, I’d been a casual problem solver. Maybe I did extra work sometimes, or lingered longer over my books than my peers did, but I blended in. Not after Calc 3. Once I understood WTF a line integral was, all of the math I’d done for the other three and a half years of college began to make sense. My mind was blown. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I enrolled in graduate courses at UMSL. Sure, at least I was enrolled this time, but why? I wasn’t pursuing a degree. I was just taking classes–math classes–for the hell of it, and paying thousands of dollars for the privilege.

Is it any surprise that I became a math graduate student? I was as close to being literally enslaved by math as it’s possible to be, and, still, I was in denial. But, in grad school, I began to spend more and more time doing math, and the more I did, the more I needed to do.

These days, I try to keep my math habit quiet. But, sometimes, I wonder where I’d be today if math hadn’t sucked me down into a hell of countably infinite imaginary differential analysis of algebraic set theory. I wonder if I’d be…different.

It’s too late for me, kids, but you still have time to make a different choice. Don’t be like me. Don’t give into the seductive thrill of differentiation. Just say no…to math.

I love math too, and 2+2=100 😉

@mentaldysplasia or 11, or 10, or 4. 🙂

@dolorangelicus

Yes, or according to 1984–5, lol. It comes from the binary system: 0+0=0; 1+0=1; and 1+1=10. The number for 2 in the binary system is 10; therefore, in the binary system, 10+10=100 or 2+2=100. I used this theory in a paper that wrote in one of my classes where I explained that science and religion explain the same things in different terminology. There is more than one truth, and mathematics expresses the idea that more than one truth is possible. People tend to forget about the other two number systems that everyone uses: binary and sexagesimal.

@mentaldysplasia

That’s not a great explanation of binary numbers. Here’s the one I give my students:

We use base 10 numbering. 123 means 1 times 100 plus 2 times 10 plus 3 times 1. Really, though, that’s 1 times 10 squared plus 2 times 10 to the first plus 3 times 10 to the zero (remember that anything to the 0 is 1–except which number? That’s right–0. And 0 to the 0 is what? No, not 0–undefined!)

Changing bases means changing 10 to some other number. Base 2 (binary), 3 (trinary), 8 (octal), and 16 (hexadeximal) are the most notable alternatives.

For example, in base 2, instead of the places from right to left representing 1, 10, 100, 1000…, they represent 1, 2, 4, 8, … To convert a number into base 2, figure out the biggest power of 2 that less than or equal to your number and put a 1 in that place. Subtract. For each other place, put a 1 (and subtract) if that power of 2 is less than or equal to your remaining number, or a 0 otherwise. So 3013 = 2048 + 65, 65 = 64 + 1. Put a 1 for 2 to the 11 (2048), 6 (64), and 0 (1), and a 0 everywhere else: 100001000001

Hexadecimal uses base 16, so we need more “numbers.” To count in base 16, the digits are 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F. Otherwise, same idea.

So 2 + 2 = 4 (base 10) and 4 = 100 (base 2) (1 times 2 to the 2 but 0 times 2 to 1 us 0 times w to the 0), 11 (base 3) (3+1), or 10 (base 4) (4+0). In every other base, 4 is a numeral, so the answer is 4.

@dolorangelicus

Okay, timeout, are you saying that the number 2 in the binary system is not 10?

@mentaldysplasia no? I just explained how changing counting base works.

Because numerical base is based (pun inevitable) in powers/multiplication and not addition, an explanation in terms of additions is unideal. It seems instructive for binary only because 2 plus 2 and 2 times 2 happen to be equal, but it isn’t really in the general case and doesn’t apply at all to hexadecimal, which just what I think you meant by sexagesimal?

@dolorangelicus

I always perceive that the best way to explain things is the simplest expression, and I think that the way that I explained it was simple whereas your way was a more complex (especially if it arrives at the same conclusion).

@dolorangelicus

sexagesimal is by 60 (think of time).

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🙂 It’s been a long time since I’ve done any serious math, but the Euler expression still thrills me.

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