Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Mathman gets Lost

Remember that entry last week where I was getting confused by the various languages... specialized English, colloquial Spanish, and tango? Things have gotten even stickier! Although my plan all along has been to head into the field of teaching math, I haven't really dove into the nitty gritty until last week, when I started preparing for grad school and entrance exams. As it turns out, I have to take something called the Math GRE:Subject test. Now, if you've ever taken the general GRE's, this is nothing like the Math portion of that test... this assumes you've taken many many tests ABOVE the calculus level and can combine the marrow of all those courses into creative problem solving. For example, a problem from the practice test...

Let R be a ring with a multiplicative identity. If U is an additive subgroup of R such that ur€U for all u €U and for all r€R, then U is said to be a right ideal of R. If R has exactly two right ideals, which of the following must be true?
I. R is commutative.
II. R is a division ring (that is, all elements except the additive identity have multiplicative inverses).
III. R is infinite.
(A) I only (B) II only (C) III only (D) I and II only (E) I, II, and III

I mean, despite the fact that the nice testing people were kind enough to explain what a division ring was on option II, do you notice what is missing from this MATH question? Numbers!!! Yes, it's true... the higher you go in math, the more often there are times when you throw the numbers away and work with philosophical math! Which makes the next point (explaining the above picture) all the more painful. Since I haven't had a math course in 7 years AND my college didn't offer all the courses that the test covers, I obviously need to do some serious review. I found two books written to prepare for the test on, but they took up to 6 weeks to get to Argentina and I have to take the test in 4 weeks (This test is only offered three times a year, so I'll have to take it while we're passing through Chile).

Sooooo... I cruised the libraries, bookstores, and even universities of Buenos Aires in desperation, searching for SOMETHING that could help me prepare for the test (figuring that watching the TV show Numb3rs probably wasn't sufficient), and the best that I could come up with was a Calculus review book... in Spanish. Now, haggling with street vendors, discussing the weather, or even simple Spanish literature is within my comfort zone, but calculus??? In any case, it's better than nothing, and I did find some additional stuff in English online, so I study every morning now while my faithful cheerleader roots me on...

Another little story... do you remember the fake counterfeit 50 we received a couple weeks back? Well, compare the one below to the pictures on that blog entry and see if you can figure out if this one is fake...

If you couldn't, it's probably because you didn't actually go back and compare it with the other two (which is fine... I wouldn't have either). But it wouldn't have mattered anyway because apparently no one else can tell either. Since we had no reason to suspect it was bad (it felt more real than our other fake one and the watermark was good), and we hadn't visited McDonalds recently, we tried to buy some groceries with it, but were politely told that it was counterfeit. Frustrated at being cheated out of another $17, we returned to the restaurant where we had received it, and to our surprise, they didn't deny giving it to us. Instead, they simply said, "It's real." And several employees confirmed it. Confused, we wandered into the street asking random people, who all told us it was real (all Argentinians have their own unique method of determining whether bills are real). After several heartfelt affirmations that it was real, we finally used it. Was it a poorly made authentic bill or an exceptionally good counterfeit? I guess we'll never know...

So as not to end with another counterfeit mystery, let's end with a picture of yummy freshly made spinach ravioli.


  1. Eat that spinach ravioli! It might combat machular degeneration. -Dad

  2. Joo Yeon the it :). Joo, are those your dancing shoes you have on??

  3. Yes, they are! In fact, that was the original reason we took the picture, but the shoes turned out so small that I didn't mention it :)

  4. I passed your sample math problem on to our son Sam, a mechanical engineer, and to my brother, a statistician/math professor at Penn State. Sam said it made his head hurt just to read it! Brother Jim said he hadn't worked on anything like that since grad school....thought he'd give it to some of his Chinese students to work on it. Have YOU solved it yet? Mary

  5. No... lol... only by looking at the answer key! Unfortunately, they don't have the answers explained there :(