How did I not know that today, March 14th (and actually, also on July 22nd) is Pi Day? A funny sign in the cafeteria at work alerted me to the holiday. This type of celebration is right up my alley. You see, I was a math major at Smith College. Sound nerdy? Yes! And, I loved every minute of it.
It’s funny, I left high school saying I would never take another math course – so scarred from a bad senior year calculus experience. And, so, I didn’t… that is until second semester sophomore year. It must have been the phase of the moon, because I signed up for Math 114 which was some version of calculus. What was I thinking?
It was a tough class… I remember our first exam was of the open book, take-home variety… I got it back to my house and discovered I didn’t know how to solve any of the six questions! After going to bed in a panic, I (literally) dreamt the answers… woke up, typed up my responses, turned it in and waited to see what would happen. What I received was more than a grade (I earned an A) – I was invited into a wonderful community of mathematicians!
My professor* was pleased with my performance. He encouraged me to become a math major. I did. I met other members of the faculty. They, too, made me feel like I was part of more than just a series of classes toward a degree. I started hanging around with other math majors… OK, I know that sounds odd, but it felt great to be part of a vibrant community. I was hired to do a project by my statistics professor for a local company; the chair of the Mathematics Department invited me to be her assistant. It felt so great to belong! And, to receive all kinds of other opportunities – some professional, some community oriented, some purely social.
Indeed, I am often heard saying that networking is all about Connections. Community. Belonging. Those were the things I was attracted to in the Smith Math Department. Those, and, of course, the t-shirts. My favorite was the one that read: “Mathematicians Against Drunk Deriving. Don’t Drink and Derive.” If you don’t get it, ask a math major.
Wishing you a Happy Pi Day today… and again on July 22nd. Hope you’ll dig in to a slice of apple, pumpkin, chocolate, cherry or, my favorite, custard, with a friend or two.
*This post is dedicated to the memory of my professor, academic advisor and dear friend, Michael O. Albertson. A wonderful person and an expert deriver who made me love math, to whom I am grateful for bringing me into the community of math majors at Smith and who I miss all the time. He’s probably running regressions from heaven and enjoying a gluten-free slice of something delicious on Pi Day.