Definitely Not the Opera

Crunching numbers: close encounters with math

We are turning our attention to something that's always around but most of us seldom think about: math!

Originally aired March 14, 2015

In honour of March 14th, also known as Pi Day, we turned our attention to something that surrounds us but that we seldom think about: math! 

Because really, we're all constantly calculating. Whether you're struggling with your taxes, figuring out what to tip, or building a deck: adding a little math to your day can change everything.

On this week's show: 

Statistician extraordinaire Jeffrey Rosenthal's Pi Day greeting. 

When it comes to numbers, Jeffrey Rosenthal knows his stuff. He got his PhD in math from Harvard when he was 24, and by the time he was 29 he was a professor of statistics at the University of Toronto. He is often brought in to crunch numbers on a wide range of subjects - from lottery fraud scandals to murder cases to TV game shows...

Melania Alvarez, a pioneer in math education inclusion.
Originally from Mexico, 
Melania Alvarez fought for years for Latin American students' inclusion in math education. Now she's up in Vancouver, doing the same thing for Aboriginal kids. She'll tell us about the very personal origins of her math battles.

One of the main complaints you hear from teens about math is 'when will I ever use this in real life?'. It's something Joy Pagtakhan has heard a lot in her job as a High School math teacher... So Joy decided to engage her students with a practical project - but she didn't anticipate how far it would go!​

Benny Ho, abacus aficionado.
Have you ever been stumped by a math problem that should seemingly be simple? Sook-Yin hits the streets to put peoples' number crunching abilities to the test. Along the way, she gets a crash course in using an abacus.

Anna Stokke is a math professor at the University of Winnipeg who was stunned to learn, via her Grade 3 daughter, that math isn't taught the way it used to be taught. That realization led to huge changes in her family's life, along with big changes to math curricula in Western Canada.

Chad Saunders discovered that math really matters... while bungee jumping. His story first aired on the podcast The One Dollar Story Contest produced by Joe Burima.

Have you ever gone to a foreign country and flubbed a currency conversion? Mary Agnes Welch did. She'll tell us what she reeeeally paid for a pair of fingerless gloves in Norway.

Marty Green, in his 'Math with Marty' days.
From a young age, Marty Green loved solving math problems. And eventually, Marty had his own 'Math with Marty' Winnipeg cable access program where he would lead viewers through specific math problems. For this show, he references a pizza 'pi'.

As a kid, filmmaker Hart Snider had a hard time in school, particularly in math class. But he didn't want to disappoint his parents who had been very supportive. So when Hart realized he wasn't going to be able to graduate high school with his classmates, he got creative. He'll tell us what it took for him to finally conquer math.

Believe it or not, Mohan Srivastava made the National Enquirer for his lottery breakthrough.
Little did 
Mohan Srivastava know that the problem-solving and pattern recognition skills he used in his geostatistics work would one day help him crack the lottery. He'll tell us what happened when he realized he had discovered the secret of how scratch and win tickets work. 

Grant Lawrence was so bad at math in high school that he became known as 'Dumb Grant', while another fellow named Grant who was brilliant at math earned the moniker 'Smart Grant'. Find out what happened when 'Dumb Grant' and 'Smart Grant' finally crossed paths at a high school party.

This week's playlist:

Chris Walla - Geometry & C

Les Jupes - Mathematics

Kate Bush - Pi

Feist - 1234

Cake - Subtract One Love (Multiply the Heartaches)

RELIC - One Plus One

Caribou - All I Ever Need

Tom Lehrer - New Math

Kathryn Calder - Take A Little Time

Great Lake Swimmers - What Was Going Through My Head

Diamond Rings - Day & Night

And Creative Commons music from:

Broke For Free - Night Owl 

Chris Zabriskie - The Theatrical Poster for Poltergiest III 

EAT! - Touch a Clown in the Frightness