They say math is a universal language, for the Nature mother. This analogy seems odd with our experience: as most people can testify, we learn to speak the mother tongue effortlessly. But math never comes naturally. Well, ask an Englishman whether math or Chinese is more difficult. It is the environment we living in that makes natural languages natural: we PRACTICE it on a daily basis.

One may also argue that we tend to think intuitively, not abstractly. But by nature math is abstract. This argument, however, cannot fully explain why we can learn natural languages, a form of abstraction. For example, “blue” means so many different shades of blue (ask Russians how many different blues they can distinguish). We acquire them by living through it. Thus, like beer, abstraction is an acquired taste. It is not abstraction itself that prevents one from learning math; it is practice.


[Muir Woods Redwood Forest Near San Francisco, CA, 2009]

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