Phi Skills
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Phi Skills

The truth about Mathematics they never taught you at school.

There is a common misconception that Mathematics is only for the gifted. I cannot disagree more. In this article, I will show you why.

A mathematician, like a musician, is a maker of patterns. For some reasons, people find that Music is easy to understand whereas Mathematics is hard. The truth is, they never taught you to listen to Maths as they did with Music.

Seeing the world through Ideas

We, Humans, have an incredibly powerful ability which is conceptualization.

What do you think when you look at your dishwasher? I bet you don’t think about the circuits inside or its mechanics. You just think of it as a box where you put stuff you want to clean.

In “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”, Yuval Harari describes this as the ability to conceptualize and imagine the abstract. For instance, Harari points out that this includes not only the ability of some modern sapiens to believe in God but of all sapiens to believe in such bodiless concepts as “corporations” and “inalienable rights”. These constructs exist because at some point humans decided that they did, not because of some physical entity.

Learn by creating

We learn to appreciate Music by listening and many times by singing (luckily for you, I will spare you my singing). In other words, we start from the result, we just feel the music. What if we were lo learn Music theory before listening to it? Would we appreciate it? Do we really want to look at a partition when we listen to it?

Nevertheless, we teach Mathematics as a boring theoretical construct. Kids hate it. From my experience, kids that do not learn quickly multiplication tables develop instinctive fear from Mathematics. They think of it as something they do not understand and sadly, they will always believe they are not gifted and, consequently, they will never be.

It’s a shame because Mathematics is like any other skill. Everybody can get it, our brains are just wired so we can get it.

A game everyone can play

Mathematics is a game. You have rules which are called axioms. On top of that, the mathematician builds a world, his world. Then he just plays the game by the rules.

After all, the true power of Mathematics lies in its symbolism. It gives you the ability to convey an incredible amount of information in a few lines. And, since everything results from commonly agreed on rules and definitions, there is no place for misunderstanding. It is only of the only fields where we can truly aspire for the truth. It’s a communication tool on steroids.

In conclusion

Next time you see some Mathematics I hope you will remember this article before getting discouraged.

Before I go, there are two amazing references I want to hand you out.

The first is Solving Mathematical Problems: A personal Perspective by Terence Tao. This book is intended for anyone who has a basic understanding of Maths (i.e. fourteen years old students and above).

The second is Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter.

It’s definitely not an easy read but the book can really open your eyes and show you how through painting, music and arts we can discover hidden neurological mechanism in our brain.

That’s all for today!

Ciao,

Michele

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