Know Your Math: Math as the Hidden Secret to Understanding the World

Who could’ve thought that math can deepen someone’s understanding of the world? Apart from knowing that math indeed trains our brain, it also trains us on how we view the world.

Roger Antonsen, a professor at the University of Oslo in Norway, suggests that understanding what’s around us has something to do with the ability to change our perspective.

“Many of us think that mathematics is addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, etc. But actually, there is essence in mathematics and it has something to do with patterns,” he adds.

Antonsen’s day to day definition of math are the following:

  • Finding patterns. This means that there are connections, structures, regularities, and rules that govern what we see.
  • Representing patterns with a language. We make up language based on patterns if there is a need to. This is essential in mathematics.
  • Making assumptions. This is similar to making hypotheses and just seeing what actually happens.
  • Doing cool stuff! This enables us to do many things we can enjoy.

Math as a Tool for Representing Things

Representation is all over mathematics. Like when Gottfried Leibniz made his notations in 1675, he invented a language for patterns pertaining to nature. It represents that everything we throw up in the air falls down in a mathematical equation.

Leibniz’s notes, 17th Century

Another example of invented language is a notation system for tap dancing. This enables the choreographer to do new things and steps because it is represented through graphic symbols, numerical systems, and path mapping.

It is amazing to represent anything with the use of mathematics. But what makes patterns and representing them possible is through your ability in changing your perspective.

Changing Perspectives

You can understand something if you have the ability to view things on a different perspective.

A simple example to visualize this is this:

These are four triangles. If we transform it into a three-dimensional figure, it would look like this:

Now, it’s a pyramid. If we create another pyramid and put them together, it would now look like this:

Coming from this, we learn something new about what we see. For instance, you can look at the vastness of the ocean from afar, from underwater, and we can feel it, taste its saltiness, and see it with its wonderful landscape. Viewing structures from the inside and all its other sides are essential in mathematics. You learn its essence and you deepen your imagination. Aside from imagination, if you see things in other peoples’ perspective, you become empathetic. All these are what makes us gain learning through understanding the world around us.

Kumon is the world's leading after-school enrichment program. We offer two subjects: Math and Reading in more than 300 Kumon Centers nationwide.

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