a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
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.
Note that the author is a professional mathematician and has written a few articles showing the need for the public to not be fearful of mathematics in general. (See this link for example.)
This story appeared in The New Yorker on March 11, 1985 and was republished in the collection All Problems are Simple that presents a variety of first-person accounts of university students.
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Exciting News: The total number of works of mathematical fiction listed in this database recently reached a milestone. The 1,500th entry is The Man of Forty Crowns by Voltaire. Thanks to Vijay Fafat for writing the summary of that work (and so many others). I am also grateful to everyone who has contributed to this website. Heck, I'm grateful to everyone who visited the site. Thank you!
(Maintained by Alex Kasman,
College of Charleston)