I have to be honest, for the most part of my adult life I have studiously avoided anything that smacked of math class. Some of this was due to the fact that quite often when I look at numbers they switch themselves around, fooling me, pretending to be something else so that I’m adding sixes instead of nines and threes instead of fives.
A good part of it was that I’m a fundamentally lazy person. Early in my academic career, I found that if I spent five minutes studying, I could ace a test in literature, history, German … and wait until the night before if it required any kind of essay writing. In college, I gravitated towards classes and majors that had final papers instead of final exams, towards research that was fundamentally qualitative rather than quantitative – because let’s face it, I was better at it and could spend more time sleeping and reading stuff I wanted to.
But as I have gotten older, I’ve found myself wishing that I had continued learning math. Because adding a column of numbers might be annoying, and I might have to spend more time studying and thinking, but once you get into the higher forms of math, things get really fascinating. Learning to relate concepts to each other, abstracted from operationalization or even a set value, and finding how you can explain reality with a series of symbols – how cool is that?
This thinking about math was spurred by a review in the NY Times of a new book that looks at Jane Austen through the lens of game theory. Game theory is one of those concepts I’ve always suspected would be incredibly interesting to pursue in the fields in which I have a keen academic interest…but don’t have the math background to understand well enough to do so.
On a whim, I did some searching out of game theory as it might relate to the fields of criminal justice, communication, and terrorism. As I suspected, game theory has been applied to terrorism studies, and from the little I can understand, this is another beacon on the path to my future PhD.
So, being who I am, my thought now is – how do I learn what I need to know to be able to investigate my field with all the important tools at my disposal? This question led me to search out math programs at the local university and even e-mail the head of the department to inquire as to the feasibility of taking classes. I don’t know if I would go so overboard as to pursue a third Masters degree … in mathematics (pause, while I wait to see if either the Internet or my head explodes from the previously incredibly unlikely probability that I would ever type those words) … but it’s becoming more possible the more I learn about these higher concepts.
But for now, I continue my reading project, my writing projects, my teaching project … my music project, and my day job. But in a few months, when I’m emerging on the other side of these projects, I might be ready to begin the next phase of my life goal of pursuing my PhD.
And remember: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
You know, Yogi Berra only said half the things he ever said! ;D