Mathematics

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), July 4, 2006 | Go to article overview

Mathematics


It is one of the subjects that has suffered a great deal of unfair ridicule in recent years. There is a common perception that one must be some sort of social retard to understand mathematics - that the very ability to get one's head around even the basic Pythagorean principles must push out the brain's knowledge of how to conduct a normal conversation.

How often do we hear the phrase, 'I was rubbish at maths at school,' or, 'I'm afraid maths isn't my strong point.'

But it is only ever said these days with mock shame.

Those uttering the phrases know full well it is likely to endear them with a few members of their chosen social group.

They may as well say, 'I'm not a geek with no life who understands those funny symbols. Perish the thought. I'm normal like the rest of you.'

People are proud of not understanding the subject, and anyone around who does have a bit of mathematical knowhow in such a situation is unlikely to admit it for fear of being viewed as a social pariah. They may get excluded from soap opera or Big Brother discussions as people fear to converse 'normally' with such a weirdo.

But surely this is all wrong.

Mathematics has done so much for the human race it is really difficult to condense the subject's benevolent effect on the world into so few cubic inches.

But we'll have a go...

First have a look around. If you can see anything man-made maths will almost definitely have been involved. Whether it is a car, watch, phone, cup or pair of pants, someone, somewhere, who was not prepared to desert maths as an unnecessary and embarrassing subject, has had a hand in it. …

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