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### Why Do We Like Math?

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Date: 3/25/96 at 14:50:24
From: JAK
Subject: Why do you like math?

Why do you like math so much?  I find it to be a real pain and
kind of boring.  :)

From a curious student at Trenton State who is happy that this
is her last semester of math!
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Date: 3/25/96 at 20:50:7
From: Doctor Jodi
Subject: Re: Why do you like math?

Someone once said to me, math is like Chinese food.  There's
NOBODY who dislikes EVERY sort.

There are a lot of sorts of math that I've tried and don't like very
much.  (Calculus, for example, seems like a silly idea - it surprises me
that something based on approximation can actually give correct
answers!)  There are also lots of sorts that I do like - geometry is my
favorite of the moment.  Did you know that there are different
geometries depending on what sort of object you're on?  Ever thought
about why long-distance plane flights aren't in straight lines?

There are lots of other cool things that you can do in math - with a
computer and some linear algebra, you can turn the flat plane of your
screen into all sorts of other shapes - and get a feeling for what
happens!

What other sorts of math do I like?  Some of the math that I'm excited
about learning have to do with number patterns (did you know there's a
divisibility rule for the number 7!) and knots.  Until a couple of
months ago, I never knew that knots were mathematical!  Boy was I wrong.

Knot theory has lots of applications too - the DNA that makes up our
genetic code is more versatile because it's "knotted" (in what sense,
I'm not sure yet).  Some physicists and a few mathematicians are also
talking about our world as though it were made up of REALLY tiny
pieces of stretchy string (elastic maybe?) called strings.  And these
can be studied in knot theory.

Math is related to art, too... Patterns of all sorts are quite common in
both.  Quilt-making is based on this.  So are the symmetry and
asymmetry of many sorts of design--from clothing to buildings to
snowflakes.

There are other reasons I like math too.

I love patterns - they're just really cool to me.  And I love being able
to say for sure that something is true or false - being able to prove
things.

Logic is really cool too.  It's a drudge the way it's taught, but it can
be extremely useful to be able to kill arguments or to find the problems
with someone's claims.  A lot of TV ads wouldn't sell their products if
more people paid careful attention.

Anyway, just because you didn't like the wonton soup, don't be afraid to
try the next dish that comes your way!  (Or something like that...)

Let us know if there's anything else we can do to help.

-Doctor Jodi,  The Math Forum

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