A story of math

When asked about math, in our minds a conclusion/question pops:

“I’m bad at math. Why do we even need it?”

I’m not going to take sides. Instead, I’m going to tell you a story. And let you come up with your own conclusion.

It all begins with a not so random collection of numbers {8, 4/3, 1, 4, 6, 2}.

We can now start to play with it. You may choose to follow the story by the letter or simply do as you please. Everything goes.

Look at it, it makes no sense. Albeit being messy creatures, we’re all striving to make sense of the world around us. Thus we endow things around us with meaning.

When it comes to objects, it comforts us to put them into boxes. And know how big they are. Thus our mind slowly shapes the collection into something like this {1, 4/3, 2, 4, 6, 8}.

Looks pretty neat, but there are still hurdles in our path to perfection. Yup! Your differentiation engine is not mistaking: there’s still something that’s not like the others. It’s the awkward 4/3. A vestige of the age when we started sharing food and clothing with family or tribe members.

“We definitely hate sharing. Or fractions took a tool on us.”

We may be right on both accounts. But the intrinsic reason is that we’re lazy. We hate to think. And that horrendous slash is shifting our thinking train into an upper gear. It’s pushing us towards abstraction. It’s no longer a symbol depicting a sum, a score or a size. It’s four thirds. Not two, not five. Precisely four pieces equal in size, but any three of them are shaping a whole. A pizza if you so desire.

Further more we need to know who’s who, and thus our collection may end up looking like this {1, 2, 4, 6, 8}{4/3}.

What do we do next? Usually when bored, we start employing tools, to shape further the objects around us. Let’s take multiplication for example. It allows us to enrich our collection and yield some interesting conclusions:

  • 1 does nothing much to our collection
  • 1 times 8 and 2 times 4 yield the same result
  • 4/3 maintains it’s status of a weirdo, up until we multiply it by 6 and then magic happens. It turns into 8, something we already know. And know to be good

Math? Who talks about math? We simply ran through economy, social behaviors, religion, architecture and some chemistry. Perhaps some personality traits emerged there, depending upon what you’ve shaped the collection into and your tools of choice.

Seriously! Move along! These are not the maths you were looking for ;).