''That adding and subtracting thing was going along pretty well,'' recalls comedian Paula Poundstone. But then came the long division, which confused her and reduced her mother to tears at the kitchen table. ''Math was a very emotional time for me.''
''I was in college before I realized that mathematics is not cold,'' remembers Bill Cosby. ''Mathematics has a warm temperature. It has a heartbeat.''
Poundstone and Cosby are two of the celebrities who recount their learning in Math...Who Needs It?!, a PBS special airing Sept. 4 at 8 p.m. They join math teacher Jaime Escalante, whose inspirational work with students in an East Los Angeles classroom was the basis of the 1987 movie Stand and Deliver and who is now the star of Futures: With Jaime Escalante, a TV series for schools produced by PBS. Like Futures, Math combines footage from Escalante's classes at East L.A.'s Garfield High with scenes of professionals talking about how they use math on the job to design skateboards, buy fashion for retail stores, and build roller coasters. The show also offers entertaining insights from the likes of Teri Garr, Dizzy Gillespie, and Joe Piscopo as well.
Escalante hopes the program will ''change the negative image (people have) about mathematics'' and show students, parents, and teachers that ''what (kids) are learning in a classroom they will using in regular life.''