Dear Mathematicians

Who invented maths? (don’t answer that)

I mean, I understand that we need to know how to pay taxes, organise our finances. I understand that I need to learn how to cut a cake for so and so many people. I even see the point in geometry. Maybe, one day, I’ll want to build a house or maybe I want to put a pool in my garden, so then I have to figure out how much space I need for the amount of water I want. Okay. I understand that. I do.

But tell me, dear mathematicians, who cares what x is in an equation that some maths teacher made up? And why to I have to find out the width of a tunnel when I only have the area, not the diameter – why can’t I just measure it?!

And where do you find your so called “problems”? Where?
When you think about it, you’re just causing unnessecary trouble that I have to fix for you.

No, seriously. I think it’s a problem, that many kids are bulimic due the all the skinny runway models and that there are people starving in the desert because their homes were destroyed by some stupid civil war. I think it’s a problem that the arctic is melting and polar bears are drowning because of it. Those are problems.

But today I sat there trying to find out what area we have under a curve, so that eventually I can find out where the curve is. Someone please tell me in which real-life-situation I will have to do that – whatever we are doing? Will it bring peace to the world? Will it influence politics? Will save the rainforest? NO! On the contrary in fact, it will fill so many pieces of paper you could put it back together to build a tree!

So, please, dear mathematicians, leave me alone! You’re giving me a headache!

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3 thoughts on “Dear Mathematicians

  1. Well, for a pretty basic example, using the data involved in walking around the outside edge of something — say, a piece of land, or even a building — and a bit of calculus gives you the area enclosed by that edge which, of course, matters in your property tax assessment.

    On a more abstract level, the area enclosed by a particular curve describes how efficiently an engine uses the energy available to it, which I’d think the sort of thing anyone would wish to know.

    Also, pretty near any system in which what the current state of things is affects how it’s going to change — for example, if you’re driving, how fast you’re going and how you’re accelerating and decelerating affects what your position is going to be — is described by a differential equation. The solving of these differential equations, and so the predicting of what systems will do, is (believe it or not) the same process as this area-finding. Honest.

  2. Okay, thank you for that. I respect your fascination for maths. I won’t ever work in building or architecture, or cars. Who is interested in that kind of stuff is free to study it, but I am certainly not. The level of maths I am learning at school now is not relevant for my life, considering my parents did fine without it. But thank you for your opinion.

  3. Maybe you need to stop concerning yourself with the nitty gritty of what you are actually learning (i.e. determining the area under a curve, for example) but appreciate the skills that you are learning and building upon during every maths lesson. For starters, you have to first analyse any problem you are given to discern which information is relevant and which is not. Then you have to organise the data you have in a way that allows you manipulate it effectively. After that you have to determine a suitable technique to follow through to its logical conclusion to (hopefully) obtain a correct solution.

    All those skills (namely analysis, organisation, manipulation and logic, plus many more) are all applicable to other subjects but also outside of the classroom, to work and to daily life.

    I hope you can work towards appreciating the bigger picture of what you’re learning rather than just the actual mathematical content.

    R.

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