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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I Love Math


http://xkcd.com/587/

I entered LMU as a major in Undecided Liberal Arts. During my first year and a half I toyed with studying psychology, English, sociology, economics, business… among others. However, none of them managed to ignite a passion in me. Half way through my sophomore year, I chose to study mathematics.

Since early high school, I have always enjoyed math. I occasionally found myself zoning out, thinking about patterns in numbers. For example, a few days ago, my professor helped me figure out that when you add up the digits of multiples of 11, alternating negative and positive signs, the sum is zero (e.g. 11 is 1-1, 11x13=143 is 1-4+3, etc.). There are infinite patterns to be found in math and that is a huge part of what I love about it. And then you find a way to show that that formula can never be proven wrong. It is a form of purity.

I realized that thinking about math in my free time was unusual, decided it had to mean something and started taking math classes again. This was not easy, I hadn’t studied math in almost two years and I was enrolled in three high-level math classes. Fortunately, most of it came back pretty quickly. When it got difficult, my professors were great with open office hours.

At LMU, I have been very lucky. While at some universities, the priorities of professors is research, the LMU math department is very much education oriented. I have yet to learn from someone whose first priority wasn’t his or her students. This being said, research opportunities also abound.

When I first decided to study math, I spoke with Dr. Herbert Medina about what classes to take. I explained that I really enjoyed finding patterns in numbers and was wondering if he could help guide me into a field that was a good fit. He provided some advice and a year later offered me a research opportunity in analysis with another student. We are now studying families of rational functions that yield polynomial approximations to the arctangent function, which help us find efficient formulas for computing pi. We examine different sequences of polynomials and try to find functions that are more efficient as well as try to find proficient ways for computing pi. While this likely sounds like gibberish to many, I really enjoy the work. It is challenging, as we don’t know if we are going to obtain the desired outcome. Thus, when breakthroughs have been made, I have been overwhelmed with excitement.

My professor, research partner and I are in the midst of making plans to continue our research for the next academic year and I will be able to write my thesis on it. I know that I most likely would not have been given a similar opportunity if I had attended a larger school, or even many other smaller schools. I cannot give the LMU math department enough praise; it has provided me with excellent education and experience. I still enjoy learning about other fields of education, but mathematics is the best fit for me and I am thrilled to have found that.


-Colleen Bouey

1 Comments:

Anonymous Sean McEvoy said...

This makes me sad that I stopped studying math. I was always good at it and found solving problems a rewarding way of thinking creatively. It is totally a form of purity!

March 30, 2011 at 6:14 PM  

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