Boring, annoying, unrealistic and a lot of work — many people describe math this way. Who really cares how many coins Dave needs to spend on 27 watermelons if each watermelon is $4.32 and he had an equal number of pennies, nickels and dimes in his pocket?
Yes, there are the algorithms and procedures, but there is a deeper meaning in math once you look at the structure and how it builds on itself. I continue to be fascinated.
This semester, I will complete my last math class — differential equations — and it only seems right to share why so many find math to be beautiful.
Math means learning that things happen for a reason
Any math lover has a one or a few mentors that come to mind when thinking about learning concepts. For me, I think about my mother. I’ll never forget the day we sat down with a paper and a blue pen and she showed me how to divide fractions and why it is done by simply multiplying the inverse.
I realized much later she showed me the mathematical proof.
There is a sense of accomplishment in uncovering the mechanics behind math, said Alex Anderson, sophomore in mathematics and computer science.
“The feeling of reward when I understand a math problem is the same for a writer to see their completed work do well or a play/show go well,” Anderson said. “It feels rewarding,”
Math is communication
Different people have different ways of solving problems, and the math strategies we learn in class can carry over to logical reasoning in other areas of life.
“In some ways math can be informative and orderly to simplify/quantify things, but we can also use it to apply ideas and creativity when using it to explain how things around us work,” Calder Knapp, sophomore in mechanical engineering, said. “When learning about math, it’s partly explaining how someone came to this conclusion and partly how this idea can bring on other conclusions.”
In third grade, my teacher saw my interest and challenged me with a long division worksheet. At just the second problem, I was confused on what to do and had to ask for help.
Later on, I learned the same problem-solving process a different way. Teachers and tutors enlighten young mathematicians with their own style, and it becomes a part of the logical thinking that sticks with them. Anyone assisting me on my math journey built the internal workings of who I am today, and that is priceless.
Math means confidence
There is a certain fear when completing a problem — what if I’m not doing it right? What if I’m not looking at it the correct way? To this day, I struggle completing a problem for fear of my misunderstanding getting in the way.
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I’ve learned doing well in math takes two steps. First is understanding what is going on. The second is having the ability and confidence to face it on your own.
“You are presented with just a huge mess of nonsense, and then you break it apart step by step, you clean it all up, you give your brain a workout and at the end you have a nice and tidy solution and a sense of pride,” Peyton Threinen, junior in biomedical engineering, said. “It helps you with critical thinking, it pushes you to learn more, and it’s so satisfying when you figure it out. It’s just puzzles.”
Math means appreciation
High school math teachers opened up my love for math through their delivery of material. Imagine predicting the future with past knowledge — that is what math builds students to do.
Abby Kerber, senior in mechanical engineering, said math — specifically calculus — allows for explanation of the world’s little details.
“I love calculus because everything in the world comes down to physics, everything — molecules moving, how a ball is thrown in the air, how coffee cools down … and it’s calculus,” Kerber said. “It’s wild that someone used math equations to explain literally how everything in the world works: from how the planets orbit to how cells work. Math is wild.”