## Tuesday, September 20, 2016

was a wayward kid who grew up on the literary side of life, treating math and science as if they were pustules from the plague. So it’s a little strange how I’ve ended up now—someone who dances daily with triple integrals, Fourier transforms, and that crown jewel of mathematics, Euler’s equation. It’s hard to believe I’ve flipped from a virtually congenital math-phobe to a professor of engineering.

One day, one of my students asked me how I did it—how I changed my brain. I wanted to answer Hell—*with lots of difficulty!* After all, I’d flunked my way through elementary, middle, and high school math and science. In fact, I didn’t start studying remedial math until I left the Army at age 26. If there were a textbook example of the potential for adult neural plasticity, I’d be Exhibit A.

The applications of mathematics might change with scientific progress, making some mathematical topics more useful at times than others. But because mathematical results are based on logical deductions alone, they actually never become wrong, never get obsolete, and never truly get old. They are just waiting for the right application to arrive.

So there were books. It just didn’t register, at least to anyone else but me, that owning them should be a source of pride. What the adult me can detect however, and what went completely over my head as a child, is the classist undercurrent of the whole thing. You can’t make someone love books if they never could afford to access them in the first place, and you can’t sustain any kind of passion for reading if you don’t have the means to do so.

Doyle reminds us that we shouldn’t be so quick to judge women in terms of degrading stereotypes or unrealistic expectations. “Women,” she writes, “are not symbols of anything, other than themselves.”