Recommending division

A friend and I were discussing how to analyze his data one time and at the end of the conversation he said “So, basically you’re recommending division.” And indeed I was. The conclusion was to divide one thing by another.

I’ve also recommended to clients that they use an extended Kalman filter or homomorphic encryption; sometimes fancy math is called for. But often they need something simple.

However, knowing about division is not enough to appropriately recommend division. A ten-year-old child should know how to carry out division, but would be unlikely to realize when data is best analyzed by dividing one thing by another.

I saw something the other day saying that there are no child prodigies in applied math. Child prodigies flourish in closed worlds. Applied math is an open world. Not textbook math—that’s a closed world—but the skillful application of math to the messy real world.

It doesn’t take decades of experience to carry out division, but it may take decades of experience to wield it well.

One thought on “Recommending division

  1. It’s basically the old joke, isn’t it: $1 for hitting with a hammer, $1,999 for knowing where to hit.

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