Autumn cometh. Snow in the mountains, leaves in the wind. Just kidding about the snow, since we’re in Wichita and there are no mountains within several hundred miles. But the leaves really are beginning to drift up at the edge of the yard and and we’ve run the furnace a couple of times. Something about fall: this is the time of year some of us ponder the middle distance and reconsider our old best dreams.
My dreams never involved taking introductory algebra again. About 40 years ago I was happily certain I’d left that subject behind for good. And yet here I am, sitting a classroom every day, struggling through the little tricks involved in graphing polynomial equations. I don’t hate it as much as I expected to. Algebra has an elegance of its own, not least because the correct answer is not a matter of subjective judgment. After working exclusively with English words for nearly all my life, with all their unruly ways, it’s kind of refreshing to learn the precise language of mathematics.
Anyway, that’s what I’ve been reading lately: Introductory Algebra, 10th Edition, by Marvin Bittinger. The plotting is wooden and the characters nonexistent, and the used paperback version I bought cost $85 — about three times what Dan Brown is getting for The Lost Symbol. Let’s just say it’s not for everybody.