This is a list of the top 10 reasons we study mathematics. Not necessarily because it’s useful or helps us make money, but for its own sake. Some say there are infinitely many reasons to study mathematics, but I think this is a good place to start.
1. Mathematics shows surprising connections between ideas from completely different areas of life, making it a valuable critical thinking skill. This is one of the most important things that mathematics does. The analogies between ideas are unexpected, sometimes shocking, but also tremendously rewarding. The connection between geometry and algebra may seem obvious now, but once upon a time it was an amazing discovery!
2. Mathematics gives us an exhilarating feeling of discovery, uncovering new ideas and objects. I still remember the first time I found a pencil which had no solution to x^2 – 2 = 0
3. There are some facts you can only understand if you study mathematics deeply enough. The most obvious example is Fermat’s Last Theorem. Because of its historical importance it has been studied by many, but there are probably not that many people who could come up with the proof of this statement on their own.
4. Mathematics teaches us how to rigorously reason about topics that may seem far removed from mathematics at first glance, like philosophy or theology. For me personally it was studying Gödel’s incompleteness theorem in my logic course which eventually led me to become a mathematician.
5. Mathematicians have created a vast array of beautiful objects which we can explore and from which we can derive pleasure, no matter how abstract they seem at first sight. Most mathematicians experience this feeling during their school years at some point or other, but it never leaves us completely, even as we reach the pinnacle of professional research mathematics.
6. Studying mathematics allows us to live out our fantasies about being a scientist in a lab coat working on the meaning of life by discovering the mysteries hidden away in unexplored corners of the universe. In reality it’s also hard work but you can still travel widely and be paid for it!
7. Mathematics provides both accurate and efficient algorithms for solving all kinds of problems that arise in daily life, from deciding if two objects are the same or different to scheduling tasks on a computer. It’s important to remember that while an algorithm may seem complicated at first glance, it usually involves only basic operations like addition or multiplication, repeated over and over again thousands of times.
8. Mathematics is often described as “the language with which God wrote the universe”. Whether you believe in this particular statement made by Plato or not, mathematics has repeatedly proven its ability to reflect the structure of the world around us – even when that world was seemingly chaotic or random. The conservation laws for energy come immediately to mind here.
9. Mathematics promotes clarity in one’s thought processes by helping us spot errors in our arguments and by allowing us to express complicated ideas in a precise and compact manner. The “black pen test” is a great example of this: if someone still has their writing hand, they can sit down and write out all their thoughts on paper without making any errors. However, I bet that it will take much longer to write everything than it would be the case if we had access to a calculator or computer so we could just punch in some numbers.
10. Studying mathematics makes one fearless about approaching problems for which there doesn’t seem to be an easy solution at first glance. This is especially important in today’s world where anyone who really wants something badly enough can get it using computers (without even having to leave the comfort of his or her own home). Mathematical training teaches us that “success” is not about achieving results immediately or quickly, but rather about being persistent and patient.
What do you think? Do you agree with the author of this article? Post your comments below.