WRITING 131: WHY PEOPLE DON’T LIKE MATH, 1

Math is everywhere. From the first sound in the morning  (alarm) till the last touch at night (electric toothbrush), hardly a day goes by without math’s touch. Indeed, math powers all kinds of gadgets,  from cell phone,  to TV, car, train,  and computer; it also dictates how modern society carries out daily activities, from sales, trading, auction, forecasting, to sports (Moneyball). Indeed, if we put a label “Math Inside” on everything that uses math, we would be amazed by its ubiquity.

Its might aside, math is also genuinely beautiful. Like writing, math values simplicity, coherence, consistency, and precision. Often more so than writing. For example, my favorite symbol, the integral \displaystyle \int, is just visually gorgeous. It is also extremely powerful to express all sorts of relationships—e.g., between speed and distance, between density and mass, between stock and flow. It does so by capturing their common core in such a simple, unified, elegant way:

\displaystyle F(x ) = F(a ) + \int_a^x f(t ) dt.

Despite its ubiquity and beauty, people seem to dislike math. Few joke about their deficiency in literature or music, but many are eager to admit their illiteracy of math.

Why?

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4 thoughts on “WRITING 131: WHY PEOPLE DON’T LIKE MATH, 1

  1. “Gotta practice”
    —Yes. That’s the point. Like native tongue, playing instruments, writing, sports, dancing—if we view them as a way of expressing ourselves—then math is remarkably similar to these activities. The more you do, the better you get, and the more you like it.

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  2. “For example, my favorite symbol, the integral \displaystyle \int, is just visually gorgeous.” – This reminds me of my tattoo.. ;)

    I don’t like maths, numbers in general actually, because they confuse me. And yes, I am a sociologist and yes, that is a strange combination. But I’m an intuitive person. I tend to follow my gut and have my brains fill in the gaps, so to speak. That’s probably why I’m better at languages than maths, for instance :p Not that I can’t be taught, but I think it’s a tale of interests when it comes to liking maths or not.

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  3. I particularly like that you said “math, like writing, values consistency, simplicity, coherence, and precision.” Well said! I, too, hate math, but that comparison makes total sense and encourages me to go finish my math homework. It’s absolute and always has a clear answer in a world filled with inconsistencies and unknowns.

    Liked by 1 person

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