2011 & 2012 USA Memory Champion
Memory Consultant & Speaker at Nelson Dellis LLC
CEO & Founder of Climb for Memory Inc.
Brand Ambassador at Fusio-io
Spokesperson for DSM
Was there a math teacher, project or lesson that made a big impact on you while in school? What got you interested in math?
I've always loved numbers. Not necessarily math, but definitely numbers. Ever since I was little I would absorb myself in numbers. I always would count things - my steps, lists of things, cows in a field, you name it. I always felt comfortable surrounding myself with numbers. In high school I was a B student in math and actually struggled with Pre-Calculus and Calculus - so I wasn't a math savant or anything like that. I actually ended up taking Calculus a couple times before I understood it. It wasn't until I started taking Physics in college that I started to seriously fall in love with math. My teacher, Dr. Huerta (at the University of Miami), made everything look so magical. He always took the time to talk about the history of certain findings, proofs, laws, etc. He was just so passionate about the process of math and how it surrounds us in everything we do, that it was contagious. I would find myself from there on reading math book after math book, memorizing all the proofs, understanding all the concepts, doing tons of problems.
What did you enjoy most about math while in school?
Early on, like I mentioned above, I loved swimming in the world of numbers. Numbers have always made me feel cozy and warm. Each having their own feel. What followed was the exciting feeling of being able to solve a problem. Being able to decipher some type of problem, code it into math, and then through some combination of mathematical operations (that were the results of years of mathematical findings by many different mathematicians over the ages), you would end up at a single answer. I've always loved the satisfaction that comes from that.
Describe some of the ways in which you use math to do your job. Which math skills are most important to your job?
I use math in so many ways. One of the biggest ways is that it helps me teach. I tutor math of all types, to people of all ages. Without math I wouldn't be able to teach the way I do, and I love teaching. Secondly, it helps me come up with new ideas and strategies for the different things I am into - memorizing things, card games, computer programming. And finally, it helps me understand the real world. For example, I was on a flight a few months ago and was looking out of the window when suddenly I thought....we are traveling at 500km per hour, but the ground (40,000 ft. below) moves so slowly in relation to me. How can I describe that mathematically? So I took out a piece of paper and tried to figure out an equation that would describe, based on what altitude I was at, and what speed I was going, how fast the ground would move from my perspective. Nothing revolutionary or crazy, but I had a curiosity and through math, I was able to satisfy it. I love that I can do that with my understanding of math and physics.
What could teachers have done to make math more enjoyable/useful for you while in school?
I feel that math is taught all wrong. It's all arithmetic drills at first, and then just more and more concepts that just seem to pop out of nowhere. Oh hey, here are matrices, learn them. We'll skip over Kramer's Law one year, and then talk about it the next, then never talk about it again. Why? I don't know. How do you find the horizontal asymptotes of a rational function? Hmm....I know we did it last year and it had to do something with the highest power in the denominator and numerator, but I'm not sure....THAT'S CRAZY. Math should be taught so those types of things (among many others, obviously) are intuitively known (or can be figured out) because the student studying them would have a deeper understanding of the math behind it. I believe math should be taught in the same way and in the same order as how different mathematical concepts were discovered. Proofs, proofs, and more proofs. And with all the history thrown in there too. Math is so much more fun and meaningful when you understand where things come from.
If you had the power, how would you change the way math is taught at school?
I guess I answered this question above. But the bottom line is that math is beautiful. To me especially because of the way it has grown through all these eras of discovery. Just think about all the things you learn through high school math. Most of that stuff people 1000 years ago had NO IDEA about, and suddenly you have all of that knowledge given to you in 4 years. Voila. It's absolutely amazing to think about. And because of that I feel like math should be getting a better treatment. Let's teach the history of it and work our way through the proofs that got us to where we are now.
About the Author
Nelson Dellis is the 2011 and 2012 USA Memorization Champion. Nelson’s tremendous success has allowed him to assist others as a Memory Consultant and Speaker at Nelson Dellis LLC. As a consultant and speaker Nelson works with organizations to help improve individual memory which translates to improving efficiency in the work environment and helps organizations reach their maximum potential.
As the CEO and Founder at Climb for Memory Inc. Mr. Dellis has created a non-profit organization geared towards raising awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s disease research by organizing mountain climbs around the world. Since 2008 Nelson has climbed Mt. Rainier, Mt. McKinley, Mont Blanc Mt. Everest (twice) and Alpamayo.
Nelson is currently a Brand Ambassador at Fusion-io a company that focuses on integrating hardware and software that delivers the world’s data faster.
In addition, Nelson is as a Spokesperson at DSM which finds unique ways to use technology and products to help make a positive impact on Health, Nutrition and Materials.
Despite an already full schedule, Nelson still finds time to help tutor others, at all levels, with their math skills.
Mr. Dellis previously worked as a Software Developer for Wolfram Alpha.
Nelson has been featured in numerous articles in publications such as the Virginia-Pilot, The Times (UK), Daily Mailbox (UK), Forbes, NY Times and Sun-Sentinal to name a few. He has also appeared on many videos for companies such as The Today Show, NBC, WSJ.com, and Time.com