GOOD LUCK WITH THAT – Smoley & Other Friends

Dec 20, 2017

Recently I saw a MEME on Facebook that said, “LIVED ANOTHER DAY WITHOUT NEEDING ALGEBRA!”. It made me chuckle because it reminded me of my 8th grade math class and thinking I would never, EVER, use Algebra when I got older. Why did I have to learn this stuff? It was hard for me to comprehend that 2X + Y could ever equal Z!  How wrong I was. Hardly a week goes by that I’m not pulling out my battered old copy of CarrLane’s Reference tables for the solutions of right triangles. Technically this is Trigonometry, but I won’t quibble semantics; math is math.

Then I started thinking, “What an old fossil I am using all these old reference guides.” There are buttons to push on smart phones, or key strokes on computers that would get me the answer faster. But, although I’m almost sure the answer would be correct, I would still have to check it the old-school way.  The trouble is, I was taught things before there were smart phones and computers. We did things “long hand” in the dark ages. I have trouble putting 100% trust in a computer. After all, a computer only knows 0’s and 1’s. How smart can it really be? My friend’s three-year-old can even count to at least 36. When I was in High School, hand held calculators were still years in the future. And even then, the first TI’s could only do the four basic math functions and square root. I learned to do math using a slide rule, and got great two decimal point accuracy. Anything more than that is just a waste of digits. If You have seen the movie “HIDDEN FIGURES”, You would have learned of Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who used a slide rule to successfully calculate the trajectories that put a man on the moon. And yet, in 1999 we depended on a Cray Super Computer and crashed a 125 million-dollar space probe on the planet Mars. Who Knew?


So, I keep my trusty old friends near-by. Probably my oldest friend is my copy of CRC Standard Math Formulas and Tables. This book is chock-full or good stuff and it got me through Standard Deviation in my collage statistics classes, as well as my Trig and Calculus courses. About all that I remember or calculus today is fx (pronounced F of X). But I still use Algebra, Trig, and Geometry a good bit at work.

The CARR LANE Reference Tables was a freebie from the Carr Lane company. I reference the little chart for right triangle solutions more than any other source I have.

Then I have my dear friend Smoley’s Four Combined Tables. I purchased this book on June 27, 1978 and it has been a math bible sitting on the corner of my desk for many years. It looks a little like a bible too. This is a wonderful reference for logarithms and squares, slopes and rises, Trig tables, and Segmental functions (who needs calculus?).

My final friend is the Pocket Reference compiled by Thomas J. Grover. I purchased the 2nd edition for $8.00 in 1997. This book has everything you could ever want a reference for, and it will fit in your pocket. The latest issue is the 4th edition and has even more references and information than mine. They are available from various sources. I even picked up one for a friend not long ago that was a freebee give-a-way at a trade show.


Some of today’s Millennials may think they have no use for Algebra or Trig, but the fact is they use it every day; they just don’t realize it. Whenever they use their computers or electronic games and devices they are using hundreds and thousands of calculations behind the scene with each one of those key strokes. I also use my computer and cell phone to perform various math functions. But if you are going to ask me to depend solely on electronic devices and give up on my old friends, good luck with that!