Mathematical insight on reality & you (yes, you!)

by | Saturday, January 28, 2017

I have always been intrigued by the manner in which everyday ideas get “mathematicized” (if that’s a word). For instance, the other day, on a bus-stop by my office I noticed an equation written on the wall. I have no idea why it was there, but there it was.

Happiness equals reality minus expectations – Tom Magliozz

As I have written elsewhere, mathematization is actually quite common. For instance, we sometimes “thoughtlessly assign specific numbers where such specificity is not warranted” and the results may actually be fictional in their relationship to reality. You can read that blog post here: Number (non)sense & flatulence. It is a post where I bring together petabytes, Moby Dick, Indian elevators, Samuel Beckett and flatulence into one sweet(?) package! How often do you see that? It’s worth a read (if I say so myself) so here’s the link again.

A somewhat related issue is how we often take ideas that are extremely subjective and try to express them mathematically, often in the form of an equation. Of course, once we express something as an equation, it is easy to conceive of some interesting variations, generated through simple algebraic manipulation. For instance, here is the equation I saw at the bus-stand:

Turns out that they got the name of the person wrong (thanks Google). It should be Tom Magliozzi (with an i at the end), the late, much beloved, co-host of NPR’s Car Talk, the one who never drives like his brother. 

A simple algebraic manipulation leads to this deep insight:

Reality = Happiness + Expectations

Did you know that Reality is nothing but  happiness combined with expectations? Frankly I did not know that, but thanks to mathematics, I now have a deeper understanding of reality (or at least of alternate reality, an idea that goes well with alternate facts)!

The next image, and example, comes from Dean Basile:


Hmm… lets shift a few of these variables around and we get the following:

You = Impact – Generosity

Reflect on that for a minute (or two). You are whatever is left behind when you subtract your generosity from your impact! Like I said… hmmm…

The question that remains, of course, is what is your relationship to this new reality?

A few randomly selected blog posts…

Exploring Organizational Creativity & Mindfulness with Ravi Kudesia

Exploring Organizational Creativity & Mindfulness with Ravi Kudesia

Recently our on-going series on creativity, technology and learning for the journal TechTrends has focused on the relationship between mindfulness and creativity, particularly in educational contexts. Our first article set the stage for a deeper dive into this...


I often do an assignment with my students where they go looking for letterforms in nature. Leigh Wolf just sent me this link to which takes the same idea - but conceptualizes it on a global scale. Check out this example.

Children & the Internet

Warren Buckleitner, Ph.D., is a graduate of our Ph.D. program. He is editor of Children's Technology Review, a periodical covering children’s interactive media and founder of Mediatech Foundation, a nonprofit technology center based in New Jersey. He also runs this...

Creativity in the lives of accomplished teachers

How do exemplary teachers incorporate creativity in their teaching? In this dissertation study, Danah Henriksen  interviewed National Teacher of the Year award winners (and finalists), to better understand their beliefs, interests, and practices involving creative...

Why don’t students like school… In 30 mins!

One of the challenges faced by all instructors is ensuring that students actually read the textbook. This summer we came up with a innovative assignment to address this issue. The book in question was  Daniel Willingham's Why Don't Students Like School? A cognitive...

3 super-short stories

3 super-short stories

Students in my EDT180 class spent some time yesterday writing short stories. Super short stories, trying to tell a complete story in just 55 words! As it turns this (55 Fiction) is actually a thing – as a simple google search will reveal. Seeing my students engage in...

Math-Po (Mathematical Poetry): Goldbach’s Conjecture

My previous post (Poetry, Science & Math, OR why I love the web) mentioned a challenge by Sue VanHattum of "Math Mama Writes" to "write a little kids’ poem ... and that tells of the beauty of math, or, that mentions math and challenge, both in a positive way."...

Common sense in science class

Common sense in science class

Students can sometimes perceive scientific ideas to be in conflict with their common sense. How do we approach such conflicts in the classroom? Do we see these commonsense ideas as being wrong or, at best, misconceived? Alternatively, do we see them as resources and...

TPACK Handbook, new review

Just found out about a review of the Handbook of TPACK by Dorian Stoilescu and Douglas McDougall for the Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology (2009). You can read the full review here. Overall a positive review, with some pertinent criticism, particularly...


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *