Students enrolled in the Math 160 sequence have been complaining about drowsiness, throbbing headaches, and difficulty with memory and concentration for years, but recent studies suggest that these symptoms may have nothing to do with stress at all — they are a direct result of toxic contaminants found in Math 160 coursework.
Several tests from Environmental Health and Safety revealed that the Math 160 sequence contains 504 parts per billion (ppb) of lead and 312 ppb of arsenic — more than 30 times the legal limits of 15 ppb and 10 ppb respectively. These toxic materials are known to severely impact both mental and physical development. In high enough doses, lead and arsenic can be fatal.
EH&S released an official statement warning students to avoid contact with all 160 courses. Students who have been exposed to the hazardous materials in the past have been quick to react.
“First they kill my GPA and now they try to kill me? The math department has really stepped out of line,” says sophomore Lydia Eudlid, who is currently enrolled in the course. “The last thing I need in my courses is more toxicity.”
First-year John Napier, who has organized massive protests against the course sequence, takes a congruent stance. “You don’t need an acute sense of justice to know that students should not be subject to such harsh conditions,” he says. “The exams were already vomit-inducing without lead and arsenic. Toxic contaminants are a sine of a bigger problem.” No one else at the Math 160 protests laughed at his pun.
But toxic chemicals are not enough to stop some motivated students from attending class. “I’ve been getting migraines, abdominal pains, and high blood pressure from math courses for years,” says sophomore Gottfried Liebnetz, one of three students with strong enough willpower to both attend and stay awake during Saul Lubkin’s lectures. “Whether it’s caused by toxic contaminants or the unfathomable stress of letting my parents down doesn’t make any difference to me.”
First-year Ada Lovelace, who also continues to attend class, takes a parallel stance. “I just want to graduate, and if my major requires me to subject myself to inhuman conditions that make me sob in agony every night, then I guess I have to take Math 161.” Upon being informed that her art history degree does not have a calculus requirement, Lovelace ran out of the room screaming in joy.
“Math is supposed to be the emotional equivalent of chewing broken glass and salty crayons while rolling naked in the Sahara Desert in the middle of a summer sandstorm,” says George Boole, who plans to triple major in ECE, BME, and Mathematics, and then tell everyone he ever meets all about it. “People who don’t like pain shouldn’t enroll in the 160 sequence in the first place. If anything, we need more lead and arsenic in the course material.”
The Department of Mathematics responded to student criticism by running their own independent tests, which yielded a much lower contamination of -3 ppb. But students are not convinced.
“That data is clearly fudged,” says Alberta Einstein, a first-year statistics major currently enrolled in MTH 162. “The math department cannot be trusted to self-examine their own contamination.”
However, not all students agree. “The math department’s tests are totally legit, equally aged colleagues,” said Clarke Ferman, who insists that he is definitely not director of undergraduate studies in mathematics Mark Herman disguised as a student. “There’s no evidence of any dangerous contaminants in our — I mean the Math Department’s — course work.”
In an effort to win over the opposition, Ferman is throwing a WebWork party for all the “cool math dawgs” next Friday, but, with 419 “Maybe” and only three “Yes” RSVPs, he does not have high hopes for the event.
“The math department needs to realize that sweeping the issue under the rug is harming real people” says David Hilbert, who is currently enrolled in MTH 162, 164, and 165 at the same time. Hilbert has been exposed to so much lead and arsenic that he hasn’t stopped vomiting for three days and has to leave a pillow on the floor in front of the toilet to keep his knees from getting sore. “I’ve spent so much time fighting for my life that I couldn’t do WebWork this week! I already had to slaughter my entire social life just to leave enough time to solve all those problems — which look nothing like the exam — and now I have a zero in the grade book! I don’t know what I’m going to do.”