Maths is beautiful. If you’re thinking this is a cliche, then you are precisely the person I wish to address with this post!
I feel like mathematics is traditionally misunderstood. In fact, being a ‘mathematician’, I am often misunderstood myself. Yes, I was bright in school and did really well in my exams, eventually getting a PhD. But that road was a big struggle (which deserves a blog post itself) – maths was and is tough for me. In terms of my personality, I’m anti-social at times and am a bit of an introvert – traits you might say are linked to being a geek! I don’t like labels though – they are too confining.
Often, I would rather play football than be doing maths – I’m actually rubbish at mental arithmetic and, indeed, sport is where I’ve made some of my best friends. I’ve always been quite sporty and arty and I hated maths in school – just like you did! Exams were not a doddle for me either because of the strict time limits that are imposed. I think this is why a research career is suited to me – I get the time to think about problems and find innovative solutions. I guess this also brings out the best from my character, which is somewhat closed-off from society at times.
Why am I stereotyped? Maybe because I tell people I do maths and this instantly brings back nightmare visions of numbers, algebra, long multiplication, yawning in class and spectacles (I don’t even wear those). But I think my perseverance in the subject (by taking A levels and going further with it) opened up this beautiful world to me and showed me what maths can actually do. Maybe perseverance could have the same effect on you too – in anything that you pursue – you just have to give it a chance! Generally, I have a thirst to understand the world and how it works – from the large-scale to the microscopic, I feel a responsibility to fulfil the gift of reflection and wonder that we humans are endowed with.
I guess schools could do more to show the beauty in maths (I have indeed tried to take my fractal work into schools; but only as an ‘outsider’, not a teacher). In reality, maths encompasses so much more and is not like the maths we see in school. I like the analogy from this video , which says that school maths is like taking art lessons but not being shown the great works of art. There are many great works of maths and I think this should serve as an inspiration to mathematical education.
But inspiration doesn’t have to be restricted to traditionally mathematical domains. Amongst so many other works of art (which I hope to delve into in later posts), Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory is a favourite of mine. It is creative, imaginative, inventive and more – all important traits of a mathematician.
From my experience, problem-solving is maths. Finding imaginative ways of doing old things is maths. Being creative is maths. Thinking logically is maths. Contemplating is maths. Wondering is maths. How is this all possible? I guess that is my challenge on this website – I must try to win you over and show you this fantastic world that’s discovered with an imagination fuelled by maths. I hope you like it, I think you will…