it might be for a good reason.
Maybe you don’t understand it, or you think it’s difficult, or boring, or not useful.
I’ve flipped through some math textbooks, and I can see why you might feel that way.
My hope is that, with some effort, you start to feel differently.
At its best, math is about solving puzzles, and about surprisingly simple ideas that can solve complex problems.
If you have some time, I’d like to try to share an example of how math can be fun.
(When you’re first learning math, I think it’s more interesting to think of math as fun rather than useful.)
Consider the following question:
What do you get when you add the whole numbers from 1 to 100?
In other words, what is 1+2+3+4+5+…+96+97+98+99+100?
(The “…” means imagine all of those numbers that I didn’t have space to actually write down.)
Let’s try to find the answer the long way:
1+2 = 3
1+2+3 = 6
1+2+3+4 = 10
1+2+3+4+5 = 15
1+2+3+4+5+6 = 21
Argh, this is gonna take too long. There must be an easier way…
When given this same question as a kid, a mathematician named Gauss is said to have answered the question within seconds.
(Take some time to see if you can find a trick to make this question easier.)
Gauss made the following observation: The question might be easier if I answer it twice!
He took the second question and reversed the order:
But now look what happens. Let’s find the total of both sequences, one pair at a time:
All pairs have sum equal to 101! How many pairs are there? 100! So all of the numbers in both sequences sum up to:
Since we found the sum for two sequences, we need to divide by 2 to answer the original question
10100/2 = 5050
The answer is 5050!
If you are studying math and don’t like it, I hope you find some joy in small tricks like this.
Math has some beautiful ideas, but sometimes it looks so abstract that it’s tough to see how anyone could enjoy learning it.
Even if you know how to do the math, sometimes it’s unclear what is actually going on.
If you ever want to understand more in math class, please ask a friend, a teacher, a parent, or try to learn more online.
I hope that by working hard to understand math, learning math becomes a little more fun for you.