Mathochism: Fibonacci’s bunnies

One woman’s attempt to revisit the math that plagued her in school. But can determination make up for 25 years of math neglect?

Pre-calculus is almost over. We have one more actual lecture, then a review, then the last test, then more review, then the final.

I can’t really believe it, even though Thanksgiving is next week, and I’m already sick of Christmas carols and fretting about getting presents bought and cards sent and dinners planned.

We have left trigonometry behind and moved on to sequences. Sequences feel like classical math to me, since they involve counting and patterns and adding. And of course, no discussion on sequences can be had without mentioning Leonardo Pisano Bigollo, aka Fibonacci, who lived in the late 12th to mid-13th century, and whose greatest accomplishment (apart from reaching the ripe age of 80 in an era where most barely reached 40) was his “Liber Abaci.”

The “Liber Abaci” was the arithmetic book that helped introduce Arabic/Indian numbers to Europe. Before that, II times II was IV! It also introduced the idea of using sequences to predict population growth. In Fibonacci’s case, he used sequences to predict how many rabbits would be born, starting from one pair, in one year.

Now, this sequence was not Fibonacci’s idea, even though it’s named after him. Apparently, it was around as early as the sixth century in India, but whomever really came up with it is lost in history.

That’s showbiz.

The Fibonacci sequence is fascinating, though, because it can also be used to predict how a tree will branch or how an artichoke will flower. Next time I’m driving through Castroville (the artichoke capital of California), I must remember to stop by one of the huge prickly bushes artichokes grow on, and try applying the Fibonacci sequence. Hopefully, the farmer won’t set the dogs on me.

At any rate, it looks like we’ll be wrapping up this class with sequences. And forgive me for a moment if I regress to trig, but this semester has felt like it’s been on a higher speed, a sine wave oscillating at four times its usual period.

Then, there will be calculus. And then, my experiment will be over.

All text copyrighted by A.K. Whitney, and cannot be used without permission.