As some of you readers may know, I am a math major. Recently, one of my friends Margaret told me that she started enjoying following the proofs done in her math lectures. She hates ‘math’ so she was totally confused and didn’t know what was happening to her. At first I thought she was making fun of me but no, she was being real.
So I thought this was a good chance to explain a bit why I like math and try to help explain why one might suddenly start liking proofs after hating ‘math’ for years. This is what I wrote to Margaret in reply:
“We teach math totally wrong from middle school up to diffeq. You learn black boxes and memorize procedures. Math really isn’t about what you can do with it or the specific numbers. Its really about the interactions of ideas starting from your axioms upon which you build your whole world beautifully complex theorems and proofs. And its tidy, once you prove something its proven. And the steps can be crazily creative
I found math research to be a creative process more than anything else. Actually I had to look up articles on how to be creative. Don’t let that fool you though, creativity requires iteration. Nobody really has that single eureka moment without struggling.”
And the most important feature: “Math is a social activity” – Paul Erdős
I could go on but some others have said what I want to say much more elegantly:
I’ve also attached an excerpt from What is Mathematics that goes into detail (it’s a great book by the way). And if you’re intrigued and you want to dive deep and straight to the foundations: