No math

I started to write a post today about a cool conversation I recently had with a friend on an interesting math topic, until I realized it just wouldn’t work. It’s not that the concepts were out of anyone’s grasp — the ideas we were discussing were all very simple and logical and beautiful, and certainly not beyond the reach of anyone who reads this blog.

It was rather that the only way to discuss those ideas would require the notation of math. And I am all too acutely aware that most people have a very unfriendly relationship with mathematical notation. If you write something like ex, or x + iy, most people will start to panic, and promptly set about finding somewhere else to be.

The ideas that these expressions represent are not at all difficult, but somehow the very fact that it’s “math” stops people dead — you end up discussing not the ideas, but rather the wall of incomprehension surrounding the way those ideas are expressed.

It’s a shame, because mathematical ideas have the kind of immense beauty found in so few things — a glorious sunset or a great Shakespearean sonnet come to mind. But unless something changes radically, that beauty will likely remain, for most people, out of reach.

3 Responses to “No math”

  1. manooh says:

    Not related to math notation, but related to changing how people think about math:

    Vi (who calls herself a “mathemusician”), made these videos about ignoring what her math teacher says and doodling instead – and learning the math concepts she’s supposed to learn in a fun way:

    I love those videos!!

  2. admin says:

    Wow, her work is so delightful. Absolute genius. Thank you for posting that!!

  3. Mari says:

    Simply awesome! Manooh, thank you! I wish I had Vi (mathemusician) as my math teacher! I’m one of those Ken describes who start to panic and sweat with the site of equations… :(

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