The Comfort of Math in a Crisis


The Zen of Maths

Christina Sng for Maths@Singapore

With so many world events preoccupying us now, it’s no wonder our stress levels are at their highest.

Many have found comfort in the reliability of math. I certainly did as a student in university, knowing my grade would not be weighed against the subjectivity of an examiner’s opinion.

How can math be comforting?

In the words of Dr Rebecca Goldin, Professor of Mathematical Sciences at George Mason University and director of  STATS, a project at Sense About Science, USA:

“Learning mathematics can be like watching a flower unfold. For many people, learning math promotes mental agility and satisfaction. As an example, when you solve a Sudoku puzzle, you get that joyful feedback at the end, when all your numbers fit into the rows and columns and subsections, confirming you didn’t make an earlier logical error.”

For those who think math is all about memorizing formulas, Dr Goldin says:

“Memorizing formulas is not doing math! Calculators will always be better than humans at arithmetic, and computers can do algorithms. Mathematics is about connections between different ideas…Understanding why mathematical processes work is far more valuable than being able to memorize a sequence of rote steps.”

The joy and comfort of math comes in the practice of it, the satisfaction that comes from solving a problem and knowing that whatever is happening in the world, this is one problem that can be solved. That is how it is like for me.

How to start in this practice?

Look for math and logic puzzles, games and problems that you enjoy. Whatever it is you choose, know that it can be solved.

For more on this comforting subject, visit https://medium.com/@jill.coxcordova/in-times-of-crisis-maybe-math-can-be-your-comforting-coping-mechanism-e6bffdab4222

Thanks to Cosmic Timetraveler @cosmictimetraveler for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁