Shortly after my 70th birthday, I began my math quest

Obsessions? Us?
  • Obsessions? Us?

Post Title: It’s Not Too Late to Learn

Post Date: October 8, 2014

Eight months ago, shortly after my 70th birthday, I began my quest to conquer calculus. I justified my interest in higher-level math by recalling what I missed in skipping fifth grade. I was able to keep up in all other subjects, but I never made the transition from whole numbers to fractions. Throughout the remainder of my schooling, I decided I was just not good in math, crossing off all careers that required training in it.

I became, instead, a teacher of high school English. After five years of that, having no interest in school administration or counseling, I accepted a position as an admissions officer at a local university. Thirty years later I retired, still lacking fifth-grade arithmetic skills.

Unwilling to return to the classroom, I enrolled in the online Khan Academy, which enrolls about 10 million students worldwide, most of whom are decades younger than I. I’m now struggling to graph quadratic equations, enjoying the freedom to learn at my own pace. I also like Khan’s requirement for mastery of a concept before being allowed to move on to the next. A far cry from the days when I earned a grade of “C” in Algebra I and passed on to get a “D” in Algebra II.

A few months after I began my math quest, my wife and I signed up for our first adult-education class through California State University San Marcos. It was titled “Unbridled Obsessions: The Uncommon Interests and Bizarre Tastes of the Victorian Age,” a fascinating class offered by the University’s Osher Institute, a program designed for students 50 years of age or older. The 30 of us attentive senior students were enraptured by Dr. Jack Williams’s rendition of a quirky time in history with remarkable connections to our own.

We liked the class so much we enrolled in another Osher class last month, titled “Oil, Politics, and the Mideast,” taught by an Iraqi-born American, Farouk Al-Nasser, formerly the executive director of Iraqi operations for a San Diego Fortune 500 company. Dr. Al Nasser’s presentation was far more insightful than anything we’ve seen in the popular media.

Cal State San Marcos is one of 122 colleges and universities from Maine to Hawaii offering Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes. The founder, Bernard Osher, known as “the quiet philanthropist,” created the Bernard Osher Foundation in 1977, seeking to improve quality of life through support for higher education and the arts. In 2008 the Foundation provided CSUSM with a $1 million endowment for its program, which now enrolls more than 500 students each year in 13 locations throughout North County.

I’m not sure why going back to school has become so important to me. Maybe it has something to do with my 93-year-old mother, who had to quit high school to help out on the family farm and is struggling today with dementia. It might also be the absence of assignments and grades. This time I go to class only to learn, not to be judged.

Post Title: Better Than Red Light Cameras

Post Date: February 15, 2013

I’m a fan of red-light cameras, despite cursing them for the $600 they cost me for a San Diego intersection photo op and online traffic-school instruction.

My wife and I were on our way back from the airport when I came upon the turn from North Harbor Drive onto West Laurel Street. I call it the Intersection From Hell. Traffic was light that day, and we were engaged in a spirited conversation. While crossing through the IfH, I asked my wife, “Did I just run a red light?” She said, “I think so.” Two months passed before I received the photos of me at the wheel.

Still, the most effective use of technology for traffic safety I’ve seen is the digital speed limit signs showing your current speed together with the posted speed limit. They light up when you exceed the speed limit, blinking, “SLOW DOWN! SLOW DOWN!” The blinking of their message catches your eye with its instant feedback and displays your speed to other drivers, producing peer pressure to drive within the limit.

Using digital speed-limit signs that change bad driving behavior, rather than simply punishing it, may be both more effective and more acceptable to those who fear Big Brother.

Title: The Riehl World | Address:

Author: Richard Riehl | From: Carlsbad | Blogging since: 2011

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