What is Math?

What is math?

Good question. Mathematics, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary,  is “the science of numbers and their operations, interrelations, combinations, generalizations, and abstractions and of space configurations and their structure, measurement, transformations, and generalizations.” There are several good definitions, however, none can briefly encompass all the aspects and meanings we attribute to mathematics. I have tried, though.

Here is my definition:

Mathematics is a language devised by humans to describe quantities and the relations observed between these quantities. This dialogue facilitates our understanding of the world.

Once you accept the approach, ‘math is a language’, an alternate path to it will open for you. The, so often encountered, approach that in order to learn math you need to learn a boring series of mechanical operations will be exchanged by a view of a dialogue between people (you and your teacher, you and your classmates, or you and the author of your math textbook).

I view math as a form of communication between individuals speaking the same language. The unique and universal feature of the mathematical speech allows an exchange of ideas and tools between individuals. It is not surprising then that the math done in China, Russia, Korea, Australia, Brazil, and the US is in essence the same. Not only that, we can understand the mathematical calculations done by ancient cultures (like the Mayans, Greeks, Romans, Ottomans, Egyptians, Slavs, etc.) while we encounter difficulties in understanding their spoken and written languages.

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