Business Schools

A New Life Where Math Is Fun


As she prepares to start a new adventure as a Yale MBA, our journal-writer learns to look at the world through numbers

Toward the end of December, as I was completing six months of math refresher courses, I received my formal letter of acceptance from Yale. It was the winter solstice, marked by many cultures as a celebration of new beginnings and trust in the future. It was the perfect day to celebrate the start of my own little renaissance.

As a period of cultural rebirth, the Renaissance that swept through Europe from the 14th century through the 17th century is a lesson in the beauty of change and new directions. The exposure to new ways of thinking, seeing, and experiencing the world is a true gift. New intellectual pursuits have a way of pulling you in. When you begin to understand them on a certain level, you're hooked. They say a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and I now know enough about mathematics to know how important it is for me to continue to study it both practically and imaginatively.

Now is hardly the time to be resting on my laurels. I view my refresher classes as the foundation for me to build on in the days and months leading up to the start of MBA classes at Yale. Last summer, I bought a one-year subscription to Peter Regan's online MBA Math course. Having put off the course until I completed my classes at the University of Connecticut, I now feel ready to dive into the self-paced program that covers finance, accounting, microeconomics, statistics, and spreadsheets.

A Quantitative Upgrade

Regan, who teaches math courses at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business, was kind enough to e-mail some pointers to me after he read my first BusinessWeek.com journal entry (BusinessWeek.com, 11/4/07). He encouraged me to take the math I was learning in the classroom and apply it to practical business problems. I have just started working my way through the material and commend his program to any prospective student looking for an online course.

When I interviewed at Yale last summer and was accepted into the Health Care Executive MBA Program, I realized I would have to strengthen my quantitative skills. I became committed to looking for ways to increase my exposure to statistics in my day-to-day work. I had already been involved in the development of a balanced scorecard for the nursing unit I worked for. Since that time I have taken the lead to help create and monitor a clinical balanced scorecard for the pediatric critical care transport program at Connecticut Children's Medical Center, and I'm working with a team to align the scorecard with a new strategic plan for the organization.

I'm also working through some business math books for, dare I say it, fun. I've committed several hours per week to a book titled Statistics for People Who (Think They) Hate Statistics: The Excel Edition by Neil J. Salkind. I never thought I would say I do math for fun, but there it is. Math has become a challenge to work through, and I've come away firmly believing my success will depend upon my own motivation and commitment to practice by making it a part of my life every day.

The Numbers Are Secondary

I've tried to incorporate my new interest in the subject into my love of art and culture. I spent the end of December in Washington where I was surrounded by magnificent architecture and memorials that depend on mathematical symmetry, ratio, and proportion for their beauty. I looked at Renaissance art in the National Gallery with a greater appreciation of the linear perspective and projective geometry. My "find" at the bookstore was Math and the Mona Lisa: The Art and Science of Leonardo da Vinci . Mathematics as "art" is simply all around us.

Numbers, while having my profound respect, no longer scare me the way they used to. Thank goodness that is the case as I begin 2008 contemplating $64,500 per year in tuition and fees. I temper my anxiety about this figure by remembering my similar concerns back when $2,000 in tuition to become a nurse seemed like $2 million to a 21-year-old with two small girls to care for. Later, the idea of studying liberal arts at Mount Holyoke for $34,000 a year seemed insurmountable. In each case, the investment in myself and the enrichment of my life far exceeded any dollar figure.

I feel grateful to live in a time and place where desire and hard work can make contemplating Yale a reality. Let my renaissance begin.

Craib is an MBA Journal writer and member of the Class of 2010 for the Yale School of Management Health Care Executive MBA program.

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