Math and Dissertations
September 25th is National Math Storytelling Day. Doctoral students can’t afford to be mathophobes. Not when a little math storytelling can save you months off your dissertation journey…
My kids’ favorite math story: Why is 6 afraid of 7? Because, 7, 8, 9!
Here’s another: A wanderer found himself in the court of the Emperor of India. As he regaled the court with stories of his travels, the subject of chess came up. The Emperor had never heard of the game, nor had any of his courtiers. The traveler set up a board and proceeded to instruct the Emperor in the rules and basic strategy.
The Emperor was so impressed that he promised the man anything his heart desired. The traveler made a request so simple, that the Emperor could not refuse. He asked that the Emperor place one grain of rice on the first square of the chess board today. Then two grains on the second square tomorrow. Then four grains on the next square, the next day. And so on, doubling the number of grains of rice on the next square each successive day for each square on the board.
So, how much rice would that be?
Enough for every man, woman, and child on Earth to eat his weight in uncooked rice every hour of every day for 5 years!
Enough to cover the entire country of India, 50 feet high!
Enough to stretch to the nearest star…and back! Twice!
Now here is where your head probably starts to hurt… “This is exactly why I hate math!” you might say. But, trust me, the concepts you need to understand in order to complete a quantitative dissertation are actually much simpler.
The choice between quantitative and qualitative methodologies is a choice between speed and delay. You can collect and analyze quantitative data in a small fraction of the time it takes to do so with qualitative data. You can recruit your participants much more easily. You can report your results much more quickly.
Let’s say that two students receive approval from their IRBs on the same day. The first student is completing a quantitative study by surveying participants. The second student is conducting a qualitative study involving face-to-face interviews. It’s not at all unusual for the first student to reach graduation in half the time of the second! Half!
So, if you want to finish your study and do so quickly, efficiently, and with less effort, it’s time to celebrate math storytelling day!