Math Rules

By: Joe Pagano

Math rules, and everything else drools. Well maybe not everything, but the truth is that math really is the king of subjects to study. For ultimately every subject in school—indeed everything—revolves around math. Even subjects that you would never think. Like English, for example. How so? you say.

Well for instance, take poetry. Poetry has meter, which in essence is the way a poem is structured as to the flow of the syllables. The sonnet is a type of poem consisting of four stanzas: three of which contain four lines, and the last containing two lines. Indeed, math can be found in the sonnet as well as in many other least expected places.

You see the sonnet has a meter which is known as iambic pentameter. Pentameter refers to the number of feet a line contains, a foot being a number of syllables of words. Iambic refers to the number of syllables and the stress pattern associated with those syllables: the iamb is a foot of two syllables, an unstressed followed by a stressed. Thus a line of iambic pentameter contains ten syllables, and these are such that the pattern is unstressed followed by stressed. This is illustrated by the following: daDUM daDUM daDUM daDUM daDUM. An example of some lines of iambic pentameter would be the following taken from Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare:

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

So what the heck does poetry, iambic pentameter, or the like have to do with math? Before you go off and get ready to commit me, give me a chance to explain. The point of this article is to show that if we look (and admittedly we sometimes have to look hard, but often times we really don’t), we will see relationships and tie-ins between an abstract discipline like mathematics and other seemingly unrelated fields—like poetry, to wit. You see, we can think of a line of iambic pentameter—the key meter of any sonnet—as being composed of a string of 0's and 1's, in which the 0's represent the unstressed syllables and the 1's represent the stressed syllables. Thus the daDUM’s above become 01's, and a line of iambic pentameter becomes 01 01 01 01 01. For those of you who recognize this pattern, you notice that we have converted the meter of the sonnet into a binary pattern of digits. By converting the sonnet into this binary pattern, we can spot instantly whether each line of a sonnet fits rigorously into the iambic structure or not. For any line that does not alternate between 0's and 1's, with five of each in each line, would technically fall outside this structure.

Indeed many lines of many sonnets fall outside this structure. Just read the sonnets of Shakespeare or Emily Dickinson, for that matter. However, this structure is followed as a guiding principle. Deviations occur for the sake of expression and also because deviations sometimes...are good.

So here we have discovered a weird connection between binary digits and—of all things—poetry. Imagine how many other things we could discover if we just used a little imagination. For this reason, I say without reservation that math indeed rules and everything else, kind of drivels. And for those of you who realized while reading this that those binary digits are what form the foundation for computer technology—yes that’s right, the computer would not be if man did not harness the power of those little seemingly insignificant 0's and 1's—take a bow.

Yes. Math rules. And by the way, why don’t you chew on this binary digit stuff while you figure out a way how to make more money with Google’s Adsense Program. Just a kidding thought. Till next time...

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Joe is a prolific writer of self-help and educational material. Under the penname, JC Page, Joe authored the classic of mathematical ABC's Arithmetic Magic. Joe is also author of the charmingly pithy and popular ebook, Make a Good Impression Every Time: The Secret to Instant Popularity; the seminal collection of verse, Poems for the Mathematically Insecure. For more information, visit his website at

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