Mrs. Moeller and The Fog of Numbers
Today is Pi Day, 3/14, a day for celebrating mathematics and that most peculiar of numbers, Pi (approximately 3.14159).Numbers have never been my thing, outside of the occasional dalliance with sudoku. While my dad, the carpenter, does equations and figures in his head even though he never went any further than the first semester of college, I've got book learnin' up to my ears, but can barely figure a tip without a calculator.
Dad wasn't much help with math homework growing up either since he seemed to have his own mathematical language which definitely didn't involve showing his work. He was convinced (and told me repeatedly) that I just needed the right teacher to set me on fire for numbers. He vividly recalled his own magical math teacher that finally broke through and made it all make sense.
I did eventually find a magical math teacher in the person of Mrs. Moeller. She was patient, she was funny, she was absurdly short and she was in love with math (or at least did a convincing impression of a mathaphile daily for her students. She was the one that introduced me to Pi. Or at least explained why I might want to take notice of it. She had a border in her classroom of Pi written out to hundreds of digits.
Circling around us, Pi's effective infinity was impressive. Exciting. Something worth following up on. She gave equations and proofs the same theatricality as she did historic battles and Shakespeare quotes (and she discussed them all with the same level of knowledge and passion).
She was a great teacher. If she hasn't retired, I'm certain she still is. Mrs. Moeller gave me many things, not least of which was a solid and long-lasting respect for numbers. But even she was unable to break through the fog. I'm still clinging to my calculator (or at least the calculator app on my iPhone), and confused about the difference between radius and diameter. But I'm still in awe of Pi. And I'm still thankful for Mrs. Moeller and the millions of teachers like her all over the country.
So, celebrate Mathematics today, but remember to thank a teacher too!