Join Joel Lee in exploring how the universal language of mathematics enriches our daily lives and fosters inclusivity for all learners.

In our daily lives, we always make choices, even if we are not aware of them. Our subconscious choices are never questioned, like the language we choose to speak and how we string sentences together in a cohesive manner. What if we all speak the universal language of mathematics daily without any notice?

You start your day early to get to your nine-to-five. You must drive 30 minutes to get to work but you must be careful when leaving to avoid traffic. Unfortunately, you get there too early and are forced to wait for the security to open. So, you decide to order a coffee at your local garage. When you pay, your card declines so now you must use cash. You only have large notes so you must calculate your change to avoid being ripped off. You drink your coffee and approach your desk. You adjust the angle of your adjustable seat as your parents warned you about bad posture. After a long day’s work, you treat yourself to a meal. You are body conscious, so you question the menu items about their calories and their fat concentration. The couple sitting across from you have been food poisoned! They ordered the calamari which had been spoiled (their storage temperature was raised from 30F to 40F). The restaurant closed and the manager apologized for using Fahrenheit over Celsius. After a dramatic day, you come home only to realize that your handbrake is now faulty. The brakes of the car are sufficient when parked up to a certain height on your inclined driveway. Now you must calculate the weight of your car (in Newtons) and consider the applicable forces acting on the car while it is on the ramp. Naturally you give up on these calculations (to be fair, the coefficient of static friction was not given to you). You assumed that there was no friction. You were wrong and the car starts freewheeling downhill as you watch in horror. Nobody is injured but you are going to need insurance. They offer to pay up to 75% of the damages so you use a calculator to check your coverage. You have come to terms that you will not get your beneficial eight hours of sleep and start thinking about where you would ever use the mathematics you learned in high school.

The language of mathematics is spoken on a daily basis and sometimes we are more critical of how we speak it than how we speak our native language. For instance, in the education sector, many students who receive low marks on mathematics tests see themselves as incompetent and unable to change. They take the failure personally rather than as an opportunity to improve. It would be naïve to believe that all students think the same way about mathematics. A sly remark could be the tipping point for many students to disregard mathematics completely. I remember many people taking mathematical literacy and embracing the idea of being inferior to normal mathematics students. I could not speak to their circumstances, but I do not think it would be fair to write them off as incapable simply because they struggled to understand the way the work was taught. Throughout my time in university, I have had to rely on other sources, such as YouTube, to help me understand the work in my mathematics modules. Would that make me a mathematics write-off? Before even getting into university for Computer Science, I had to rewrite my mathematics exams. I did much better the second time and it gave me the confidence to believe in myself again. Whatever you choose to believe in your ability to do mathematics, you will be proven right.

It is a shame that many do not see the beauty in mathematics. It is easy to dismiss mathematics as a subject that relies solely on brute-force calculations. I never considered mathematics to be an art form until I heard about fractals. The most well-known fractal is called the Mandelbrot Set, named after the mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot. He demonstrated that fractals could be found in everything in nature, from ferns to galaxies. So, when you admire the beauty of nature remember that all of it can come from the dimensions of mathematics!

In all, I believe that mathematics should be a compulsory subject because it teaches you many valuable aspects of life. Mathematics helps build problem-solving skills and perseverance; it took over 30 years to prove the 4-colour theorem of graph theory (so do not worry if you cannot solve a question immediately). Mathematics encourages us to ask questions when we do not understand; these questions helped build the foundations of theorems that we still use today! To conclude, mathematics will always be a part of our daily lives. When we ask questions, we choose to acknowledge mathematics at a deeper level. In fact the majority of mathematics exists because many people ask; “Why does this work?”. We should encourage one another to ask these questions because maybe one day we will find the answers.

### Joel Lee

3rd year student, BsC Computer Science, Stellenbosch University