Fall Convocation Opens School Year

The school year officially opened with Fall Convocation on September 14. As is tradition, the Wilson Parkhill Fellowship recipient—this year, math teacher Mihaela Nicolescu—was the featured speaker. Ms. Nicolescu spoke of the joys of her chosen subject with a list of “five reasons why you should never say again ‘Why do I need to know math?’” The list was practical: simple day-to-day computations, in construction, connections to science, statistics and probability, and the fact that math is the universal language. However, she infused these reasons with humorous examples. She spoke about the building in which students were sitting. “Look around you at this majestic church,” she said. “The architects and the builders used math to make sure that today you sit under a vaulted ceiling and safely admire the structure. The architects used trigonometry and calculus when they made the blueprints. The constructors might have used simple wooden 3 x 4 x 5 triangles to check for right angles ... I can assure you that behind, under, and above these walls sit a considerable amount of mathematics.”

Ms. Nicolescu described statistics in terms of batting and earned run averages in baseball. But she talked of probability in a more personal way by recounting how she ended up moving to the United States from her native Romania. “At the end of the 20th Century, Romania was recovering after the 1989 revolution which marked the end of 42 years of communism,” she said. “Six years after the revolution, I applied for a green card lottery and to my absolute surprise, I won a one-in-a-million ticket to the United States.”

At the end of her speech, Ms. Nicolescu shared what she said was her favorite reason for knowing math. “In this divided world we live in, mathematics is great equalizer. No matter what part of the world your ancestors came from, the language of mathematics is the same.”
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