Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Wait...What is Math?

Have you ever tried to explain what math is to someone? If you have, chances are that you probably approached the task with confidence but quickly realized that it was not as easy as you had thought. Maybe you gave a definition, something like "math is the science of numbers" or maybe you focused on a specific area of math such as geometry or algebra. However, if you really think about it, math is so much more complex than that. 

Just to humor myself I looked up the defintion of math on dictionary.com, this is what is says:

Mathematics [math-uh-mat-iks]: the systematic treatment of magnitude, relationships between figures and forms, and realtions between quantities expressed symbolically. 

Woah. That is mouthful, and I don't think it gets me any closer to an explantion of math. So here goes my own interpration of math.

I believe that math is our human desire to give order and regularity to the world. Humans love to have an answer and reason for why things happen and I think that math is a logical way to do that. For explain, how did people discover that we can model tidal changes using trigonometry? Honestly, I don't have the answer, but my guess is that someone wanted a way to predict the height of the tide and to do that they had to find a pattern. Once they found that pattern or "rule" they could then apply that to predict tides in different places. So I guess what I am trying to get at is that I think math is about trying to find universal patterns that we can apply to infinite situations or problems. 

So in honor of the complexity of math-uh-mat-iks here are five of my favorite math milestones:

1. Euler's Identity (I swear this is the closest thing the real world has to magic.)
2. Euclid's Elements 
3. Pythagorean Theorem 
4. Blaise Pascal's invention of the mechanical calculator 
5. The Seven Bridges of Konigsberg problem

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