Liberal Arts Blog — Mom’s Math — Four Implicit Algorithms — Always or Never, Stupid or Smart

Liberal Arts Blog — Monday is the Joy of Math, Statistics, Shapes, and Numbers Day

Today’s Topic: Mom’s Math — Four Implicit Algorithms — Always or Never, Stupid or Smart

Is it smart to be nice? Is it stupid to mean? Is this always true? Never true? almost always true? Almost never true? What are the odds? What is the upside? What is the downside? What would Pascal have said? Today, in honor of my mother who passed away this weekend, a few thoughts on the most important math of life. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.


1. Have you ever done a cold-blooded calculation of the math of every day morality? Have you ever counted up how many times in a day you smiled? how many times you frowned? Have you ever calculated the ratio of smiles to frowns?

2. Have you ever added up the times you raised your voice in anger? Have you ever counted how many times you uttered a nasty word?

3. Have you ever counted how many times you passed judgment on another?

NB: Have you ever counted how many of those times it was a mistake in retrospect to do so? How many of times there would have been a better way?


1. Habits are hard to change.

2. The only way to change a bad habit is to begin by recognizing it for what it is.

3. And to catch yourself every time you do it.

NB: There is no more powerful teaching and learning tool developed in human history than the journal, the diary, the accounting book. Do you keep a smile/frown journal?

MY MOTHER — US Marine during World War Two, Phi Beta Kappa in math and philosophy in 1947 — taught by example — four implicit algorithms

1. Never raise your voice in anger.

2. Never utter a nasty word.

3. Never judge another.

NB: Putting your own house in order is a really big job. In fact, is more than a full time job.


1. My mother, since 1953, to my knowledge never raised her voice in anger. Never uttered a nasty word. Never judged another.

2. Was she human?

3. Or an angel?

NB: Not sure.


#1 A graphic guide to justice (9 metaphors on one page).

#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, 11/17/20

Last four years of posts organized thematically:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive


Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to math, statistics, or numbers in general. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to math.

This is your chance to make someone else’s day. And to consolidate in your memory something you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.



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