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Fear of Math (1985)
Peter Cameron

Contributed by Vijay Fafat

A feather-touch story about a young woman who comes to New York to do an MBA - and has to pass a Calculus course, a pre-requisite for an MBA. A brief description of how utterly lost she is after her first class is followed by a short fling with the instructor, who becomes her tutor (with a pick-up line; "you do have Math genes, they just need to be aroused"). A poignant story about her parents is also woven in. She ends up breaking up with the instructor and trying to pass the calculus exam on her own. After overcoming some internal doubts, she succeeds in the exam on her second attempt and concludes: "After the ordeal of Calculus, business school was manageable".

The story is written quite beautifully, though I couldn't quite figure out the connection between the two threads of the story (if the author had ever intended there to be one). It does not go overboard in describing the difficulties people have getting over their Math fear and skims well on the surface.

This story appeared the collection All Problems are Simple that presents a variety of first-person accounts of university students.

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Works Similar to Fear of Math
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Mirror Has Two Faces by Barbra Streisand (director)
  2. Stand and Deliver by Ramon Menendez
  3. The Mathematics of Nina Gluckstein by Esther Vilar
  4. Sorority House by Jordan Park (Cyril M. Kornbluth and Frederik Pohl)
  5. The Song of the Geometry Instructor by Ralph M. Berry
  6. Advanced Calculus of Murder by Erik Rosenthal
  7. Rough Strife by Lynne Sharon Schwartz
  8. El matemático by Arturo Azuela
  9. Math Girls by Hiroshi Yuki
  10. The Secret Integration by Thomas Pynchon
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MotifAcademia, Romance, Math Education,
TopicAnalysis/Calculus/Differential, Mathematical Finance,
MediumShort Stories,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)