Home > Commentary, Maths, Teaching > What’s so good about Maths?

What’s so good about Maths?

The other day Colin Beveridge (@icecolbeveridge) wrote this nice piece about why he loves maths. Today one of my year twelve students asked why I had chosen to study it at degree level. This facts combined have made me decide to share my thoughts here.

I’ve written before about how Maths is a beautiful subject, so I racked my brains and tried to pinpoint when I really decided I loved it. I remember at nursery school learning to add and subtract. I loved doing it and I have vague recollections of doing sums at home as a little one, sums aren’t really maths, in the proper sense, but I guess this was an early indication of what I would like.

I always loved problem solving too, really enjoying logic puzzles and computer games with logic, problem solving and maths puzzles built in (such as “Fun School“, and “Granny’s Garden“. The latter has received a 21st century make over!

My memories of primary school maths aren’t overly strong, on the whole. I was very good at it. I remember not seeing the point in learning times tables because I could work out the answer quick enough anyway, this annoyed my teachers and my mum. (In a slightly off topic, but related note, my yr 3 you teacher, Mrs Bremner, once told me off for not learning my spellings, even though I had got ten out of ten on the spelling test!)

Two of the things I do recall primary maths are from year 5. I have vivid memories of Mrs Hanel teaching me how to find the area of a triangle and how to construct Perpendicular Bisectors. These were things I thought were cool, but I think the real wow moment came in year 6.

During year 6 I finished the maths syllabus that the school was running, and my teacher, Mr Jones, found me a text book in the store cupboard that was left over from when the school had been a middle school. I started working on Algebra. At first I thought it was pretty fun, solving equations to find an unknown, but the moment I think I fell in love with the subject was when I realised the link between equations and graphs.

When I moved to secondary school I spent the first year fairly bored in maths. The classes were mixed ability and the lessons were strange. There was a number of boxes which covered each topic. Every few weeks the classes would swap and get another box. The idea was you would work through the booklets, marking your own and ten do the review tests for the book which the teacher would mark. I just did the reviews.

I still loved the subject, but the lessons did bore me at times, this is evident in my national record of achievement which says “maths is my favourite subject, but sometimes it’s too easy and this can be boring.” This has certainly shaped the way I deal with Gifted and Talented pupils, making sure they are always adequately stretched.

My love affair with maths continued, and still does to this day. Some topics I love (Trigonometry, Coordinate Geometry, Algebra, Calculus, Number Theory, Graph Theory and many more) some less so (Bounds, Numerical Methods, Trial and Improvement, Transforming Shapes by Hand), but as a whole I love it. I love the beauty of it, I love the satisfaction of solving a problem, I love the process of wrestling with a formula, I love that there is not just one “right” way to go about a problem, I love the stories around the maths and the mathematicians, and I love the connectiveness that’s evident with maths.

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  1. May 17, 2014 at 11:28 pm

    Math and puzzles, especially those of logic and space and patterns, have always enthralled me. I also lived the mapping problems, where we would have to find the best way, or follow directions. Treasure hunts and clues to solve that involve math have also been a lifelong fascination. It took me 3 careers and 40 years to become a teacher of math. I have come full circle to joy!

  2. May 18, 2014 at 8:41 am

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

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