Click the video above for 2 minutes of background waves while reading.
I like walking on the beach. It is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on the feet.
I can count the waves washing ashore in a time frame to determine the frequency as waves per minute. I could measure the height of each wave at a certain point. There are many more, but these are examples of applying mathematics to communicate a more accurate description of what I observe. Creating a series of graphs also be a communication aide.
Math is something that math nerds love – probably because they are natural at it. Math makes sense to them. Others don’t like math – maybe even fear it because it’s not easy for them. Maybe because of how it was taught – and as a former educator, I tend to agree.
In my life which is closer to 70 than 60, I have never needed to calculate when two trains traveling in opposite directions at different speeds will pass. After all, not many people in the US travel by train anymore. But when I’m in Europe, I can tell when my train is passing another one by looking out the window – done without a calculator and without knowledge of time, distance, and velocity.
I’ve never calculated what time I need to be at the train station to pick up a passenger who left their station at time X and traveled at speed Y. All I need to know is the scheduled arrival time and how long it takes me to get to the station. Amazingly, the same explanation applies to airports.
However, math is very applicable in everyday life, such as sales of merchandise, credit cards, loans, mortgages, life insurance, accounting, taxes, investments, grocery shopping, gas mileage, budgeting, currency exchange, trends, projections, probabilities, and more. Not knowing mathematics makes us prone to being misled and fooled.
Driven by mathematics, modern-day algorithms shape our lives by examining tendencies. I’m guessing at least 50 percent of movies watched on Netflix are algorithmic recommendations. However, at the abstract and theoretical level, mathematics is a language only understood by those knowing the language at that level. As Charles Darwin stated, “A mathematician is a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat which isn’t there.”
As I walk, I wonder: What is mathematics? To some people, math is arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, or calculus. To others, math is an application tool for business, science, and statistics – but it is much more.
To some, math is about numbers, figures, data, sets, angles, equations, structures, and order – but it is much more.
To some, math is problems, calculations, computations, skillful operations, and tallies around a question for us to answer within rules – but it is much more.
To some, math is addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, percent, fractions, formulas, and solving an unknown we typically refer to as X – but it is much more.
To some, mathematics is the study of quantities, measurements, sets, and operations through numbers and symbols – but it is much more.
Mathematics is a language – a communication tool – a communication tool like writing, speaking, graphics, statues, paintings, and other art forms. Mathematics is a high-quality communication tool that speaks across many spoken languages to explain details and big ideas while sharing wisdom.
Mathematics explains the intricate, the beautiful, and the conceptual – a mental activity for the curious, the thinkers, and the problem solvers who want to understand and even explain an observable event.
Mathematics is a tool providing a sense of reality. Mathematics explains the world around us because math weaves itself into all aspects of life. Even music is a string of numbers put to tempos and rhythmic patterns, cycles, and ratios. Yes, mathematics is in the steady rhythm of my feet striking the sand with each stride.
Mathematics finds patterns in lives as individuals, the collective, and within nature. Patterns give us order, and mathematics identifies order and disorder. Waves, tides, sunset, and sunrise are a few of the patterns I encounter here. After all, people prefer patterns because patterns explain and help us understand.
Mathematics coordinates quantities from the very small to the easily observable to the unimaginable, such as the vast universe. Mathematics even describes the shapes in nature as mathematical gifts for those of us appreciating the Fibonacci Sequence.
Mathematics is for the curious – those wanting to know – those wanting answers – and curiosity is being human. Math is a useful and practical language. Therefore, nobody should feel intimidated by it or feel it does not belong to them.
Thinking about mathematics has been a challenge, but also rewarding. But if my eyes would only spot the elusive complete shell of a chambered nautilus. Thank you, Fibonacci, for the reminder. After all, I like walking on the beach because it is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.
See what other bloggers have posted about Mathematics
- If I had math skills (a poem)
- Quilt math (an essay)
- Looking for Pi (a short essay and poem by a visitor here)
- Geometry presentation (an essay)
- Arithmetic (an essay)
- Algebra of love (a poem)
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