Numbers That I Used to Know

This parody song was written and performed in 2012 for the retirement of my BSU colleague Professor Tom Moore – number theorist, mathematical problem-solver extraordinaire, and a pillar of the Bridgewater mathematics department for more than forty years.

Numbers That I Used to Know

in the style of “somebody that i used to know” (Gotye)

Now and then I think about my calculator
Bought it for a hundred bucks in junior high
That TI-83 was my best friend
I thought I’d be with it until the end
But now in college I’m a mathematics major

Nowadays I don’t have use for computation
And every question asks me why — I don’t know why
I used to think that one and one was two
But now I’m not sure even that is true
It at the very least depends on your definitions

My teachers only showed me how
To plug in numbers to a formula and get an answer
Calculation’s great and all
But what good is a decimal without a point?
It’s such a mindless plug-and-chug
Calculator did my work without me even thinking
That’s not mathematics, though
Those were just the numbers that I used to know

Now and then I think of all my amazing students
So good at memorizing just how every problem must be done
Got the answers right on their first try
They didn’t ever ask me why
So just take your A-plus and go
There’s no more to mathematics than the numbers that you used to know

You didn’t ever justify
Told me everything was true because the textbook said so
I don’t have to take your word
‘Cause everything’s conjecture ’till you have a proof
First principles and axioms
Implications, propositions, theorems, corollaries
That’s how mathematics goes
It’s more than just the numbers that you used to know

More than just the numbers that you used to know

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