What is Math?

Find out what math is really all about.

Jason Marshall, PhD,
July 12, 2011

A lot of people think that math is just that boring stuff you do when you have to add, subtract, multiply, and divide long lists of complicated numbers. But it’s not. In fact, that stuff isn’t really math. Okay, I suppose that isn’t entirely true since all that stuff is arithmetic, and arithmetic is part of math. But it’s not real math. Meaning, it’s not the kind of stuff that gets mathematicians up, out of bed, and excited about their jobs. You didn’t think they sat around doing long division all day, did you?

All kidding aside, mathematics is about a lot more than just figuring out how to crunch numbers. Sure, that stuff is part of math…but real math is about exploring the properties of shapes, patterns, logic, algorithms, programs, and the relationships between all of these things. It’s about finding elegant and beautiful connections that naturally exist both in the real world and in the perfect mathematical one. It’s full of puzzles and mysteries, and it’s—no joke—full of tons of really fun stuff!

Consider this: Sending people to the moon and rovers to Mars, creating clever ways to encrypt secret messages and even cleverer ways of breaking this encryption, and coming up with mathematical models that describe everything from weather patterns to how galaxies and stars form to how the universe began and maybe will end – the glue that holds all of these things together is math. So, as you can see, math isn’t just boring arithmetic. It’s all this other fascinating stuff too!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock