131 – Math

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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

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67 thoughts on “131 – Math”

  1. You’re probably right about the teaching, Frank, but some of us don’t have brains that make sense of Math easily. I groaned when I saw the subject matter, but you made it interesting. Love the Darwin quote. Wishing you a happy numerical week.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As a young girl Math was the subject at school that I struggled with more than any other. My Dad tried to help me but I simply wasn’t “wired” to appreciate Math! Math works in the background of our lives and we use it even when we aren’t totally AWARE that we are doing so. There’s no flexibility in Math – it is what it is and that’s that – maybe that’s why I don’t “get along” with it…..I spent much of my life in a state of flux with a large order of flexibility and a love of fiction. Math is what it is – and I guess so am I ! Super interesting subject Frank.

    Pam

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pam,
      Not being wired for math is ok …. so is being wired for flexibility … so is being wired for inflexibility and math! Maybe the flexibility with math is how it is used because it can be applied in so many situations. Then again, math is a language – perhaps one of the universal languages. Thanks for walking along and sharing.

      Like

  3. Maths is behind everything, you’re right, even if we don’t ‘see’ it. For example, I found out a few years ago that because I lack stereoscopic vision, my brain has learned to calculate distance mathematically, without me knowing! 😉 You may even find maths behind music.
    Yamas, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marina,
      Oh wow …. thanks for sharing a bit of your personal story with your vision. Fascinating. Math is behind more than most people realize. That’s what a universal language does! … and definitely behind music. All those rhythmns … whew … and all those mathematical patterns!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I was never all that good at maths at school Frank just enough to get me by.
    The wonder of nature always drew me in.
    But nature as you say is full of maths.. and quite remarkable.
    Oh I think the maths on our ages may tally lol… 54 being my Earth birth year. Lol
    May we keep walking among the wonders Frank .

    Have a great day.. 💚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sue,
      Although he weren’t good at maths during your school days, at least you realize maths unquestionably everywhere. …. Oh … and Nathan is gone. Auto-correct sometimes does the strangest things. I even used “maths” instead of “math”.

      Like

  5. Good morning, Frank. You are right that math is everywhere and is part of our lives and world in ways that many do not think about. I say that as a person who is not “a math person.” And thank you because you reminded me that I wanted to finish listening to a Radiolab show we heard part of on the radio on our way to our daughter’s house on Mother’s Day. They were discussing how people first perceived numbers looking at babies and a remote indigenous group. https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/radiolab/episodes/91697-numbers

    Liked by 1 person

  6. If only they had taught us up front and directly about mortgages……I would have benefited from that knowledge. Perhaps they did and I just wasn’t paying attention 😂. Have a lovely day✨

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It always sounds wierd and to me when you say ‘math’ as short for mathematics, over the pond here we shorten it to maths. Either way I’m a whizz at adding and subtracting but that’s about it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fraggle,
      Add math-maths to the list of difference between our versions of the same languages. Now I’m wondering about th e original of dropping the “s”. Now I’m wondering about the inconsistency with each of our versions! Thanks for mentioning the discrepancy.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Math is behind so many things. I did well all the way until the first year of calculus – don’t has me a damn thing about it now. It’s totally gone! I am in awe of those who see it. Like in “Hidden Figures” – the brilliance of finding mathematical solutions.
    And the title of the music you shared had me thinking of the very strange Peter Greenaway’s “Drowning by Numbers” of which I leave you with a snippet – this music ran all the way through the movie with variations. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvA9z9gKHJo&list=PLV3o_TMx9cx6pvdR2kqt8lgJ02J-R3fop

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Such a good movie (watched it again a few weeks, or was it months? ago)
        Glad you enjoyed. Peter Greenaway movies are all so very weird and the soundtracks are always Michael Nyman.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Cincy

    You’ve hit on it, on why most people are allergic to math. And yes, it has to do with all that stuff that happened in the rearview. Having the right teacher makes all the difference in the world. Especially when you consider that math is everywhere, all the time and that it’s used by every single person, even when they don’t realize they’re using it.

    As a co-worker of mine once said when asked why he loved math so much. He said it was because math is the universal language. It’s the one thing most everyone can agree on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marc,
      Thanks for your thoughtful comment and props to your co-worker for his view of Math. Right on!!!! My curriculum side has always question – Math is everywhere, so why do we teacher math as if they are all going to be mathematicians? Being the contrarian that I am, I ask that to all the subject … including my own science area. I must say that the answers I received from the subject matter protectionists were lame … make that very lame. Today the answer includes “it’s on the state test.” Hello … Houston … we have identified the problem!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Mathematics is a language I am not fluent in, I am barely literate. What is important is that I know there are those who do understand it and they help make the world a better place. I will always defer to them. When I hear the word math I think blah blah blah. Unkind. But honest. I have no head for numbers but I do have an eye for letters. That is my playground.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I can just imagine you pondering math as you walk along the beach–you must be dedicated, Frank. A great subject, but alas, I fall into the categories of possibly poor teaching and little aptitude. In high school I had to take a 6-week remedial math course after failing the percentage and fraction portions of the math testing for juniors. Oddly they put me in the class just to “fix” those subjects and retake the test (which ended up being the exact same questions–which tells you about my memory for numbers and other random minutiae). I can memorize a series of numbers, etc but I can’t do any math with them. Oh well that’s what calculators are for, LOL. Great topic to ponder!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Terri,
      On interesting thing about my beach walks, any topic/any word is fair game. Although I can’t give any examples, I’m sure there have been topics that I starting pondering and just could get anywhere … so thanks for imagining me pondering math. Thanks for sharing a bit of your experience with math in school. I have strong opinions about educational curriculum, but I will bite my tongue. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  12. 2+2=22
    Just thinking outside the box.
    I’m not a math nut, by any means. However, I got great marks in school.
    I used to get 100% on geometry tests. This makes sense, as I ended up taking Fashion Design and Technology in college. A big part of the technology was pattern making. Pattern making is all about geometry.
    An odd outside the box post, that takes a good look inside.
    Thanks Frank!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m really not a “math person,” but I do appreciate math. Without it, we couldn’t play band music! I remember changing schools mid-semester when I was in junior high, and if it hadn’t been for my dad helping explain Algebra to me (and me getting so frustrated that I’d toss pencils across the room!), I’d have probably failed the class. I suppose many of us “creatives” and “word nerds” struggle over math, but when that light bulb goes off, Wow!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Debbie,
      It seems that more commenters are like you regarding math …. and that’s OK. Changing schools is hard enough, let alone dealing with something as linear/progressive as math. Cheers to your dad for helping and for you having the fortitude to stay with it! And yes …. music is very mathematical. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I am another one of those peeps who shudders just at the thought of Math! My Dad used to sit me down with flash cards when I was in the first couple of grades…I thank him for that, because basic arithmetic is pretty straightforward and not that hard to do…but when we start using letters and other functional symbols and get into the algebra and calculus stuff; then I start having mental breakdowns…geometry I find interesting but even then I get very muddled. What is intriguing to me…a lot of my father’s family past and present are accountants! I must have outside playing when the genes for math were being distributed, LOL!
    Long time ago when I studied chemistry and biology there was a certain amount of math involved in that…thankfully I did not have to study physics, else I would have been wearing the dunce hat!
    Our two sons are engineers like my hubby…a civil engineer’s progeny produced another civil engineer, dealing with structural subject matters, such as bridges, and the other is a computer engineer. They ate up math classes and left me behind in the dust!

    I remember in my twenties, I wanted to take a violin exam and get a ‘diploma’ for that level…and I had to take grade one and two theory. Yikes…more math…but I did well! I left that area for other work, and did not take the grade three harmony.

    Speaking of harmony…disharmony can cause the destruction of bridges, did you know that? Wind can make a bridge vibrate at a frequency that sets it up to fall apart. Yikes! Those that design them have lives at stake.

    Harmony! That happens when the frequencies of the tones match up in wonderful ways…and its how we tune the instruments we play on…so we all can make amazing sounds such as at symphony concerts and chamber recitals, etc.

    Harmony…there’s a subject for you to write about if you have not already!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ingrid,
      Thanks for sharing a bit of your personal story with math. Being surrounded by engineers is one thing, but at least you got enough of the math genes to use them in the science.

      I have not written about harmony …. yet …. but I can it is on my “Ideas” list for topics to consider. Thanks for the encouragement. Regarding harmony, disharmony, and bridges, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (in Washington, south of Seattle) is a classic example. Check this out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XggxeuFDaDU

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I always liked math because it’s logical and I especially enjoyed geometry. But when I got to trig in college and wasn’t planning to major or minor in math or calculate the distance across a stream by the shadow thrown by a tree, I figured that was it for formal math. 🙂 However, as you point out, math is everywhere. I shake my head virtually when someone can’t make change without the help of the register or if you give them extra so that you get an even amount back and they tell you you gave them too much. Even if you don’t use it for more than everyday things, it’s excellent brain exercise. 🙂 Fun topic.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Oh my first thought was with the first thing you shared – I never thought of counting waves per minute, maybe I will do that next time 🙂 I think there is math relevant to everyday life and then there is study of Math as a deeper subject, it can be determined only hindsight how much of it became useful and/or interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. PD,
      Math is all around us, so examples are easy to find. Then again, I like numbers. 🙂 I like the way you stated this … that is, everyday math vs the deeper diver into the subject. I continue to believe that the focus on the deep end takes people away from the daily application. Oh well … it may be just me. 🙂 Thanks for walking along and sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I’m grateful the world has mathematicians in it, working their magic. But comprehending logic and numbers has always been a big problem for me. It’s true that mathematics is a language, I just can’t speak or write it!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I can’t love this enough! I am a math lover through and through and even enjoy math “books” for fun to pass the time. Math really is everywhere and I think from an educators standpoint, or a parent, we can embrace it. I loved your examples, and to be on the beach for this reflection is awesome. I laughed at the train travel, as I so remember the D=rt. Loved it. You always encourage thoughts I would love pondering about, even if there isn’t time to write. Donna

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Math is fundamental, and making it interesting should be #1 for teachers. If it’s interesting, children will learn. Unfortunately I grew up with flash cards in school. I remember the day a teacher cut an apple into quarters when we learned about fractions. That was my one-and-only math ‘ah-ha’ moment. The good news is I teach preschoolers and can put into practice hands-on math. Thank you for a great post, Frank.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jennie,
      Great points and wonderful examples about mathematics. It’s all around us and very applicable. On the other hand, I’ve been waiting for over 50 years for the time I have to look up the cosine of an angle on a table to insert it in the formula. Keep up your good work with those youngins’

      Liked by 1 person

  20. I think I suffered a fairly poor education when it came to math. But I can remember as a child when the “lightbulb” went on as I really recognized how my piano studies and music theory was all about math. It helped me learn fractions when I was still very young. Reading your post was an extension of that education. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Debra,
      Thanks for sharing your experiences with math and supporting the mathematical application to music. Good stuff! Meanwhile, because the state tests want to emphase rote-memory stuff, that’s what the educational system will continue to churn out from its assembly-line approach.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I’m one of those people who always wanted to understand math but couldn’t quiet figure it out. People who get it tend to say, it’s like many other things – if you get the knot in your head to open it all will make sense to you.
    Also a thing many say is – if you go with a negative feeling to this you probably will never figure it out. I can say that this isn’t true at least for me.
    However, I don’t give up. I still try. Will do so probably until my last breath.

    You have a wonderful blog here. So many great pictures and nice videos 🙂

    And as someone from Europe I have to say – yes, I like the fact that we have so many trains here. That public transportation is (in many, still not in every) country and city a good (working) thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Connyx.
      Welcome first-time comment to the cyber-sands of my personal beach. Please excuse me for my late welcome, but I’ve been running a bit late the past several days. The fact that you continue trying to understand math and it’s place in our world is quite the testament to yourself and to the subfect. Keeping moving forward!

      This beach of essays is a place that I want to be calming while stimulating thought. The topics are wide-ranging (see Topics List page_, but as long as I can stimulate thoughts beyond the obvious is a good thing. Some of my topics surprise readers – such as math. I always end the walk with a good music video. Did I see right … you are in Vienna?

      Like

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