For me, math is fun because it is challenging. Maybe that makes me a nerd, who cares? I do math because I like to challenge myself. When solving a math problem, I constantly struggle for the right answer, much like an athlete running a marathon. When the solution is finally achieved and the finish line finally reached, I feel accomplished.
Am I really that different from any other person? We are all are born with a sense of ambition and curiosity. For some, these traits are manifested in sports, for others, leadership, and for an increasing number of us, mind-boggling games and puzzles. Math is not any different.
The misconception is that math is a hard and boring subject in school. It involves tedious “problems” in which everyone gets the wrong answer. And as you finally began to “get it,” the teacher gives a lecture on something else that just doesn’t make sense. Much hair-pulling and gnashing of teeth follows.
Interestingly enough, many of these people, who struggle through high-school math, enjoy playing games like cards and chess or doing puzzles like Sudoku and the Rubik’s cube. Puzzles and math are essentially the same: both involve a lot of concentration and a touch of ingenuity. And generally, the more difficult a puzzle or problem is, the more fun it is to solve. It is the strategy-making, then the grasping for the solution, the missing by just a hair, the grasping again, and then the solving. The ensuing satisfaction is comparable to that of a dog finally catching its tail.
Problem-solving isn’t the only thing that is awesome about math. Math on its own can be interesting. For me, one of the most interesting concepts is how geometric shapes such as circles can be expressed as equations. A circle is a visible object – round and everyday. But math can express all its properties in a simple equation. This fact never ceases to amaze me.
In fact, my favorite area of math is geometry. I strongly believe that geometry is under-represented in our education system. While we have two whole years of algebra, we only have one year of geometry. As a result, many people are uncomfortable when confronted with it. Some people even find it difficult to find volumes and surface area. That is shameful. Geometry is among the most fundamental and important branches of mathematics. History, not math, can prove this: geometry has been around since the times of the ancient Greeks and even before that. It is of vital importance in building any kind of structure. And on top of that, it is fun. Geometry challenges us in a way that no other math does. It is tangible and visual. You can see what you are doing, as opposed to abstract ideas like algebra or number theory. Additionally, you have more freedom than you do in most branches of mathematics. It is much more fun to figure out why three points are collinear than to solve 2x – 3 = 7.
There is elegance in how math builds upon itself. The ironic thing is that this building up of ideas is also the main reason people find math so difficult. If your understanding of one concept is not complete, then you will have difficulty not only with it, but with every topic that comes after it. However, on the plus side, if you do have a solid understanding of one concept, everything else follows with relative ease.
Math is definitely one of my favorite subjects. It is exciting, challenging, and above all, addictive. Believe it or not, people who do math aren’t all geeks and nerds; they can be very social and fun. I have met many of my best friends through math. And companies like Google and Apple are ready to hire math nerds right out of college, because they know that they will be sharp problem solvers, ready for challenges. There is a whole world out there for people who like math.
I encourage everyone to go and try to solve a couple of math problems that are NOT typical school textbook problems. (I sympathize; textbooks can be boring and tedious, and do not represent all that math is about). A few challenging problems will open your eyes. Not only will you discover a new technique to stay awake during history class, you will become better problem solvers, prepared for challenges in all areas of life to come.