Monday, November 15, 2010

Take a Number

I sat on the train yesterday with a sweet young woman named Sydney, and we had a lovely time chatting all the way from Toronto to London. She is a 21 year old native Londoner in her last year at Western University, and is looking forward to moving to "the city" when she is finished. I laughed to myself at her youthful enthusiasm when she talked about leaving "the country" (London — our city of 360 000 people) and settling in for a few fun years working in Toronto. She is studying something that I can't even remember the word for, but it relates to the insurance industry and is basically really hard Math. I couldn't help chuckling when she told me about her love for anything that involves Math, and I thought to myself "Good for her! The world needs more Math girls!" I am clearly not one of them. But maybe my daughter will be. Although it would be quite a miracle with me for a Mom!

The whole exchange about the joys and evils of Mathematics reminded me of this lovely little poem by Mary O'Neill, one that makes even me appreciate the numbers in our world. This is for you, Sydney!

Take a Number

Imagine a world
Without mathematics:
No rulers or scales,
No inches or feet,
No dates or numbers
On house or street,
No prices or weights,
No determining heights,
No hours running through
Days or nights.
No zero, no birthdays,
No way to subtract
All of the guesswork
Surrounding the fact.
No sizes for shoes,
Or suit or hat....
Wouldn't it be awful
To live like that?

Mary O'Neill


  1. I cannot imagine a world without Math! I love the stuff.

  2. I used to have the best conversations with strangers on trains - which sounds kind of weird when you say it out loud:) But it's true! You meet all kinds of interesting people.