Tag Archives: math literacy\numeracy

Nirvana

“The Sanskrit word ‘Nirvana” means ‘blown out’: a profound peace of mind, a freedom from suffering, and union with the Brahma-like symbol for the universe.

As the Lord Buddha explains, ‘Where there is nothing; where naught is grasped, there is the Isle of No-Beyond. Nirvana do I call it–the utter extinction of aging and dying…That dimension where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor stasis; neither passing away nor arising: without stance, without foundation, without support. This, just this, is the end of stress.'”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

4 Voices and String Quartets

“Soprano * Alto * Tenor * Bass

The four voices required by a chorus are (descending in pitch) soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. The voices have their instrumental counterparts in the string quartet–one of the abiding images of Western high culture, as if a group of four musicians can aspire to express something beyond our humanity. It was Mozart (who wrote twenty-one string quartets) who perfected the form, using violin, two violas, and a cello, though some argue that with the addition of a third viola and the composition of his six string quintets he perfected the form.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

19 at a Table–and the 13th Month

“Thirteen is a famously unlucky number in the Western world. I certainly grew up with the belief that to invite thirteen guests to sit around the table doomed the last to some nameless dread–so, to avoid that fate, out table was always laid to include fourteen. It was a belief shared by Napoleon, F.D. Roosevelt and John Paul Getty, and concern over the number 13 is the most common form of Western superstition. Hotels often have no room 13, tower blocks tend to avoid a 13th floor, and travel agents know that the thirteenth of a month (especially if it falls on a Friday) will be short of bookings.

The most common explanation of unlucky thirteen is the Last Supper, where thirteen sat down to eat, one of whom was a traitor plotting the arrest and judicial murder of his host and master. But similar stories can be found in many other cultures, such as the Viking Norse, who remembered how Loki stumbled into a gathering of twelve gods (from which he had been excluded) and in his envy started plotting the events that would lead to the end of the world.

Robert Graves enthusiastically listed in The White Goddess the various mythological companies of thirteen that tend to lead to the betrayal, if not sacrificial death, of one of their members: be they Arthur and his twelve nights, Odysseus and his twelve companions, Romulus and the twelve shepherds, Roland and the twelve peers of France, Jacob and his twelve sons, of Danish Hrolf and his twelve Berserks. Not to mention the thirteen dismembered portions of Osiris’s body recovered by Isis from the Nile.

The ultimate cause of our attitude to thirteen may be that the thirteenth month of the year was always weak and withered. For, although twelve lunar months almost fill up our solar year (to produce 360 days from twelve sets of 29 and a half days), there was always the issue a left-over period of five days. This was considered in ancient cultures to be the thirteenth month, a five-day oddity, often believed to be a period of immensely bad luck where the world was not policed by the normal powers, and evil spirits held brief reign. Some cultures made this into a Saturnalia-like carnival, where the norman roles of society were reversed; others deemed it a needful time for sacrifice.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

5 Qualifications of Islamic Virtue

“No honour is like knowledge * No belief is like modesty and patience * No attainment is like humility * No power is like forbearance * No support is more reliable than consultation

These qualifications were taught by Ali, the first male disciple of the Prophet Muhammad, his most valiant warrior, his cousin, son-in-law and father of his only male grandchildren. Ali was overlooked in the political succession to the leadership of Islam by the first three caliphs, which allowed him to meditate on the essence of faith in Medina. He is the fountainhead of all the Sufi brotherhoods and mystical practices of Islam, and possessed all these virtues in abundance.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

The Weekly Text, December 21, 2018

Today is the Winter Solstice, so the days now begin to lengthen. Spring is on the horizon.

This week’s Text is a complete lesson plan on the word factor that I developed on the fly (which shows, I fear) three years ago. The purpose of the lesson is to help students understand this complicated, polysemous word so that could use it in all the settings where it becomes, well, a factor.

For reasons I don’t entirely recall, I conceived of this Cultural Literacy worksheet on the noun axiom as the do-now, or opener of this lesson. I suspect I sought merely to introduce another concept from mathematics for the sake of consistency. The first worksheet for this lesson is three context clues worksheets on factor: in the first instance students will identify it as a noun, in the second as a verb, and in the third and final worksheet, it is once again used as a noun. To support this activity, here is a learning support in the form of definitions of factor in the order it appears on the context clues worksheets; this can be distributed to students as appropriate, or to your class linguist. Because I wasn’t sure how long any of this would take (the institute class for which it was written was a little over an hour long), I threw in this reading and comprehension worksheet on factorials as a complement. Parenthetically, I’ll just say that I think this lesson is incomplete; in fact, before I could consider it complete, I would want to run it by a math teacher or two.

And that’s it. This is the final Weekly Text from Mark’s Text Terminal for 2018. I plan to spend the next week doing just about anything but looking at a computer screen.

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

21-Gun Salute

“One of the prime expressions of acknowledged sovereign national power is the twenty-one-gun salute, which seems to show interesting analogies with the traditional coming of age of a fully entitled adult, who can vote, drink, serve in the army, have sex, marry, and drive. But this age of adult initiation is only a very recent tradition in the Western world, coinciding with the end of university education, and is in any case today slipping back towards 18 and 16.

In fact, the twenty-one-gun salute has no spiritual origins. It evolved out of an expression of explosive power by the British navy that would demand a first salute from a foreign ship, then give them a withering demonstration of their superior discipline and power with their own salvo. Initially restricted to seven rounds, or seven cannon, it grew expediently with the size and arsenal of the ships of the line, but was capped at twenty-one so as not to waste too much time and powder. It also became less aggressive and by the nineteenth century ships would salute each other with a friendly gun-for-gun exchange.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

9 Muses

“Clio * Euterpe * Thalia * Melpomene * Terpsichore * Erato * Urania * Calliope * Polymnia

The nine muses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (the goddess of memory), were a favourite subject for Roman artists and much depicted in mosaic and fresco, or carved in marble to grace the praesidium of a theater.

Clio, the muse of history, is represented with a stylus and a scroll, or after the Renaissance, with a book, a laurel crown, or a trumpet; she is easy to confuse with Calliope, who often has the same attributes. Euterpe, muse of lyrical poetry, bears a flute. Thalia, muse of pastoral poetry and comedy, carries a comic mask and sometimes a viol.

Melpomene, muse of tragedy, is associated with a mask, sometimes embellished with a fallen crown, and holds a dagger. Terpsichore, muse of joyful dance and song, often holds a lyre, as does Erato, muse of lyrical love poetry.

Urania, muse of astronomy, is normally shown consulting a globe of a compass. Polymnia, muse of heroic hymn and eloquence, possesses a lute and a solemn expression that outdoes even those of Clio and Calliope.

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.