You are all a lost generation Gertrude Stein to Ernest Hemingway The year before I was born, Watson and Crick discovered DNA, stole the missing piece of evidence from Rosalind Franklin. She died of cancer. They got the Nobel. The year of my birth, Brown vs. Board of Education forced integrated education, with the help of bus boycotts and street marches, fire hoses and the National Guard. I was nine when John F. Kennedy was shot. We huddled around the TV in our neighbor's basement family room. The alcoholic mother stayed sober the whole time to watch Jackie in her veil light the eternal flame at Arlington. We savored it again in LIFE magazine, John and Caroline saluting in their coats of baby blue. This was a year before my parents finally bought a small black-and-white TV, a year before the Civil Rights Act, two years before the next assassination, and the next, and the next. We passed the long hot summers with reruns of Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best next to the room where my mother did the ironing. Soon I was wearing bell-bottoms and love beads, canvasing for Eugene McCarthy and riding the bus to Washington, DC, armband tied to my jacket, singing "All we are saying is give peace a chance." On the National Mall I warmed my fingers with the glowing tips of my friends' cigarettes. By the time I turned nineteen a whole decade of new Americans had been born since the Kennedy assassination. In 1972 college was a letdown. The draft ended in 1973 and the energy of protest grew flaccid. Deep in the Republican years of cutbacks in education, social studies replaced history, Star Wars was released, the movie that is, followed by Détente and Watergate. I didn't know it yet, but already I was headed for the classroom, place where I could recount the years I'd lived through. In 1998 I asked my students to find out what their parents remembered of the civil rights movement. One kid told me his mother hadn't even been born then. That was the day I started doing math.