So, during my high school teaching years I came to know a fellow educator who would become a fast friend of mine. His name was, and is, James Burt, and we spent many a free period (if there is such a thing as a free period while teaching high school courses) ruminating over many diverse subjects. We chatted about everything, from our common Christian convictions to the Fibonacci sequence and the relevant number 1.618, a topic that we both viewed as worthy of mathematical and scientific discussion, as well as worthy fodder for English language thought. If you’re not familiar with the man, Fibonacci, you need to google him.
Now, and, hopefully, with Mr. Burt’s permission, I would like to discuss a topic relevant to us both, as we have both recently retired from teaching high school subjects in Central Vermont.
Surviving, or, in less severe language, tolerating some things about our winters here in Vermont has, over the years become a challenge and somewhat of a mathematical problem for me, and likely also for Mr. Burt. At this point, I’d like to share my ideas on the subject.
Perhaps, firstly, at least to me, as a less than worthy math problem conjurer, there is the time equation, which is a simple subtraction word problem, and goes something like this: A good winter is one in which the number of days of cold weather in the immediate past is greater than the number of days of cold weather in the immediate future. (Even for me that’s a pretty simple idea.)
Secondly, there is the snow blowing equation. That very intimate mathematical formula simply states that a good winter is directly proportional to the number of times I have needed to use my snowblower, divided by the number of times I have had to stop and repair said snowblower during each use. You could say that the number is inversely proportional, but I don’t really understand that one way or the other. Mr. Burt does. Ask him.
Thirdly, and this is a big one to me, there is the heating fuel equation. This relates directly to the number of calls, per winter season, that I must make to our local fuel supplier to order another delivery of liquid gold before our tank becomes empty. The equation is, I think, the heating day degrees or heating degree days (whatever in the world those might be) divided by the number of times my body shivers per minute, per day, or per hour, whatever. I do know that that number is directly proportional to how much money I will spend on fuel this season, or something like that.
Next, and perhaps most dear to my heart, is the equation that relates the time in the evening, (or afternoon) in which we need to turn on the lights at our home before the sun disappears below the horizon. As of today’s date, that time should be stretching out a bit, but it still seems like evening begins at about three-thirty pm here. This is precisely the time when our three-year-old granddaughter looks out the window and decides that it’s nighttime and that Papa needs to give her her evening bath.
I’m sure that Mr. Burt remembers, as do I, that when we were kids a ‘good’ winter day was one when school was canceled. This, of course, meant that we could go outside and play for the day. When I was teaching alongside Mr. Burt the equation was the same, but the answer was somewhat different, somehow. Then, when school was canceled, it meant that we could stay INSIDE and play.
Jim, I want you to know that I miss our ‘free period’ conversations. We never quite ‘fixed’ the world. We did give it a good try.