The Fibonacci Sequence: Math For the Non-Math Brain
Math Is Difficult For Many
I'm treading on dangerous ground, here, being a bona fide non-math person. How dare I have the audacity to try to explain anything remotely math-related?
That is exactly why I'm "going there." Because my own focus and orientation is so exclusively word-and-language driven, that I have always struggled with math concepts. It is a very difficult subject for me, and I do not understand much of what is presented.
However, I feel that qualifies me to take something I finally did manage to understand, and put it into terms that are easier (for me, at least) to understand. Mind you, I'm not going to attempt any explorations of advanced mathematics; only to re-phrase basic concepts for the language-and-word oriented people like me.
I'd never even heard the term "Fibonacci Sequence" until I watched the movie, "The Da Vinci Code." Early on in the action, while Professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is trying to assist in figuring out the murder of the man he's been called in to assist, a series of numbers is discovered. After some pondering, the Prof announces, "It's a Fibonacci Sequence."
"A whaaaatt???" My brain asked. I shrugged it off at the time, and continued watching the movie, but in the years since, the term has come up a few more times, so I decided to investigate.
The Confounded Fibonacci Sequence
My husband is the math person in the family--he even wrote a math text years back. Even he had a tough time getting this one through my thick head. We went around and around, and when I finally understood, my reaction was, "Well, of course..no wonder it's confusing..the words explaining the concept are wrong!"
Supposedly (although you could not prove it by me), this sequence of numbering lies at the heart of all math. I don't understand how, and I'm not going to try and explain it further than that. I'm merely going to tell you how to understand getting to each "next number" in the series.
I am, however, going to explain, after the fact, how it was that I got so tangled up in this basically simple concept.
First of all, the series, or sequence, is infinite--it can go on and on as long as you have paper to write; computer memory to compute or sand and sticks to draw with. Once I 'got it,' I can see that it is simple enough for the average 2nd or 3rd grader to grasp. (I guess I'm not smarter than a 3rd grader where math is concerned.)
Begin, working from left to right, starting with the numeral zero. Add a plus sign, and the numeral 1. This is your starting point: 0 + 1. Follow this with the answer, or sum: 0 + 1 = 1.
That's the very start of this sequence. The next number, still missing, is found by removing the left-most numeral, in this case, the zero, and adding together the remaining two numbers:
1 + 1 = 2; drop off the left-most "1" and add: 1 + 2 = 3; drop off the "1" and add: 2 + 3 = 5.
Do it again: 3 + 5 = 8. Got it? Yep. Simple. To further clarify, each equals sign from the last calculation you did is changed to a plus sign for the next calculation in line.
Continue: 5 + 8 = 13; 8 + 13 = 21; 13 + 21 = 34; 21 + 34 = 55; 34 + 55 = 89; 89 + 55 = 144.
Proceed in this manner until your arm falls off.
Here's where I went wrong, or misunderstood the original explanation.
What was told to me was, "Add zero to 1. To find the next number in the sequence, add together the previous two."
Okay--what my language-oriented brain interpreted from that was, since I was not yet at the 'next number in the sequence,' and it had been explained that, 'no, you're not jumping ahead,' I could not figure out how you ever got out ot the starting gate. Because if I was at the numeral "1"; resulting from adding the zero and one, then the "previous two" still appeared to me to be that original one and zero.
It was only after an hour of going back and forth that it was finally explained that "yes, you are at the next number's position, which is still an unknown, until you add the previous two in relation to the current position. Oh. Well, why didn't you say so in the first place? Then you are 'jumping ahead' to the unknown next number. Argh!
I have a word brain; hubby has a math brain. We are always working at cross purposes in these kinds of situations.
That is why I decided to write this explanation once I finally understood how it is done. Writing it out serves both to cement it in my own mind, as well as provide confusion relief for anyone else struggling as I did--and still do--math is my nemesis.
The Fibonacci Sequence in Nature
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