On Why I Love Math
I have never been particularly extraordinary at math, and yet, it’s one of the only constants in my life of changing variables. When I think of the first lesson I was ever taught in academic respects, the memory of putting beans into bottle lids in attempts to learn addition comes to mind. Living in India, where so many people possess extraordinary capabilities with numbers, definitely nudged me into believing math to be the cool stuff (which it is).
I have mostly done well in math in school for as long as I can remember. In math, there can only be five possible outcomes of a problem:
You solve the problem in perfect fashion
You make a silly error in one of the steps and deviate from the true value of the solution
You don’t come up with a viable plan or logic to solve the question and end up staring at the question for hours on end or give up as soon as you don't see it going anywhere
You come up with a possible logic you believe to be correct and solve the question by employing it, only to realise it was incorrect by broad (or less frequently, narrow) margins.
You don’t have a proper skill set to solve the question and so you close the book, admit or ignore your incompetence, and go to sleep regardless
I have experienced all five of these emotions with supreme intensity. The short lived high of solving a complex problem in the first try, to the adrenaline rush that comes with apprehension related to the possibility of your approach to a problem being incorrect. Math is no less than a very entertaining person with aggressive mood swings. It promises you hours of entertainment only if you can tolerate it when it’s not too amusing.
Sorry for expressing these ideas in such a chaotic manner. The only way I can truly complement an entity as discrete yet complex as math is by being as continuous and superfluous as possible.
Some words hold very important places in my heart. One is introspection. Another is calculus. Ever since I heard about the powers that calculus yields, I was awestruck. Curiosity is the only appropriate abstract noun that can describe my state of mind then. You see, if you think you know enough, there’s always a math textbook to prove you wrong.
To know there exists a toolkit that can help solve so many important problems only enhances your passion in its pursuit. I remember vividly, whenever I picked a pen to buy for school notes and homework exercises, most people usually wrote their name to test the pen they were buying. I, on the other hand, used to draw the integral sign of integration, one of the two domains of calculus. I didn’t know what it meant then, but it fills my heart with pleasure to know it now.
Math is like a complex-to-follow recipe for an extravagant dish, where the recipe keeps changing, and so does the dish, but what doesn’t change is its flavour.
Math keeps you humble, because if someone ever thinks of themselves to be knowledgeable, just ask them to look for a research paper on math.
How a previously existing idea, only composed of curved characters that we call numbers, holds such potential is beyond me.
Math taught me resilience, because whether I liked it or not, at some point in time, I was going to fail in solving a problem in the first try, and to give up and close the chapter was not a viable option. Math entitled in me organization amongst chaos, composure amidst panic. Too many numbers, too many steps, too much to follow, and too much to get wrong. Math taught me how to bounce back from failure. Math has taught me the power of seeking help when needed because two minds are always better than one. And these are only some of the lessons persevering through algebra problems and persisting through calculus problems have taught me.
Math has been one of the greatest teachers I could ever ask for- unbiased, consistent in both, criticism and appreciation, and as factually discrete as can be.
Math helps measure most quantities, but measuring my admiration for it just seems to be an anomaly in the hopefully upward sloping logistic regression that is my life.
Divyansh Lalwani, 2020