The family truckster, or in our case, a Chevy conversion van, stopped for gas somewhere between Ohio and Florida, causing my 12-year-old self to groan, inwardly, at what was coming.
My Dad jumped out of the driver’s seat, filled the tank, and then turned to me.
“So, if we put 17 gallons of gas into the tank and we drove 350 miles, how many miles to the gallon did we get? “
“Aww, Dad. C’mon, I’m on vacation.”
“No, you’re not. Kids who don’t take their math lessons seriously don’t get to go on vacation. How many miles to the gallon?”
I struggled to think.
“C’mon, this is easy. You need to be able to do this stuff in your head to be successful. Numbers can’t lie—and if you can do simple math, you can make reasonable decisions. Now, round the numbers in your head and divide—I’m asking for a close approximation. What is it?”
Eventually, I squeaked out my best guess—“Around 20 miles per gallon.”
Satisfied, he started the van and we continued on our way. For the rest of the trip, math kept coming up—impromptu tests--most of which I failed miserably. Looking back, I’m guessing he was as happy as me to get back home and let my math teacher take over.
But, like most things my Dad told me when I was young, this one turned out to be true. Math, numbers, and the ability to understand them led me to some of my best decisions and biggest successes. Of course, the opposite is also true. My inability/refusal to “trust” or admit what the numbers were telling me has led to some of my biggest mistakes.
This idea—that numbers are fundamentally emotionless and, as such, can’t really deceive—is what drives this issue, our first-ever Numbers Issue.
But, because this was put together by a team of trained journalists, all of whom have a love-hate relationship with math, we’ve taken a slightly different approach than something an accountant might create. Our idea was simple: illustrate how an understanding of numbers changed parks and recreation administrators’ thought processes and decision-making and how that change ultimately lead to staggering successes. There’s perhaps no better illustration of this very concept than the story on page 44, “Public-Public Partnership” whereby two county park systems combine and operate like a business (no tax money) to amazing effect.
You’ll find a similar theme in all the stories we present this issue and you’ll find something else—our first in a series of Master Planning overview documents you can keep and refer to as often as necessary. This months’ Master Planning overview is on all-things aquatics—we call it Aquatics 101.
I hope you enjoy it. If you do, or if you don’t, keep letting us know. Your regular cards, letters, and emails are the best part of our day.
Till next month…
Rodney J. Auth
Like the Aquatics Master Plan? Here’s a glance at what we have planned for 2015:
February: The Park Master Plan
April: The Multi-Use Field Master Plan
June: The Trail System Master Plan
August: The Rec Center Master Plan
November: The Aquatics Master Plan