In this article, Luke highlights how mathematics is applied in everyday life. He goes on to outline his personal experience to stress the importance of mathematics.

Mathematics can be considered an unseen realm of the environment; it is a natural, objective phenomenon that can be used, interpreted, and experienced by all. Abstraction was a discovery, not an invention, and it is assumed that the first mathematical abstraction to be made was the ‘concept of numerical value’. Two apples and two rocks that have nothing else in common could be related abstractly by their quantity value, and this could be done by all animals. Mankind, however, continued to evolve and develop its understanding of this concept of mathematical abstraction. The use of this phenomenon known as math has allowed mankind to shape, develop and, to some extent, restructure its environment. For this reason, Mathematics should be considered an “enabler” for all people.

Mathematics presents itself in everyone’s lives and forms the backbone of many education systems. This is because mathematics is the tool that shapes and defines reason. In fact, it could be said that Mathematics forms the basis of just about everything. From science to agriculture to business, and some might say even religion uses and relies on the structure of reason that mathematics provides.

“Pure math is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas” -Albert Einstein. Math is, therefore, for everyone. It is a divine gift that allows us to distinguish truth from contradiction and logic from chaos. It is a tool that rightfully belongs to all human beings.

It seems peculiar that so many people are so disconnected from Mathematics. According to the US Department of Education, algebra is the most failed topic/course in schools across the US. The same is true of South Africa. Seeing as math is a logic-building tool, this is an important statistic to consider. Logic is an important skill for a human, and it is a concern that so many learners would rather not do the math. Is it how math is presented to young learners, or is it a lack of appreciation on the learners’ behalf?

Math seems to be a difficult concept for young learners. A common and rising concern of many researchers is a condition known as Math Anxiety. This condition overwhelms the working memory, an important section of the brain that contains and interprets a small amount of current information that is used when doing calculations. Working memory is part of the brain that one uses when trying to remember the recipe of a certain dish or remembering to carry the 1 to the tens column when doing an addition problem. Math Anxiety is a common condition in young students due to their less-developed brains that are not as capable of dealing with the stress that math can cause.

The working memory of the brain can also directly affect the amygdala, which is known as the brain’s emotion centre. The IBE did a study on the relationship between working memory and the amygdala. The study showed through an MRI scan that the amygdala of students with math anxiety fired up in unison with the working memory while solving an arithmetic problem. In other words, it is an emotional experience for the student, and this emotion can suffocate the working memory. In some cases, the student would look blank, unable to solve the equation as if they were a frozen computer. Which is a rather good analogy for understanding what is happening in their brain.

The answer to this dilemma is unknown. Perhaps young students need to be introduced to math in a more comfortable environment where the pressure from their peers is removed, or perhaps students should only be taught math later in schooling to allow further brain development. My opinion is that the ideal way for a child to be introduced to arithmetic and mathematical reasoning is by their parents at home. This takes away many factors in school that can contribute to a young learner’s anxiety and stress.

Mathematics, for me, has been a rocky path. As a child, I was also a very anxious learner. My concentration was not good, and I constantly struggled to keep up with my peers. My eldest sister had the same problem, and I assumed that I would never be good at math like her. My saving grace was that I was good at sports and I was highly competitive. My mathematics career took off once I discovered that competition was possible in the classroom as well as on the sports field.

This might not be the answer for most. However, it tells me that there are ways of overcoming the struggle that math can present. Now math is an asset in my life. When overcoming my struggles with math in school, not only did I improve my math mark, but I improved my marks for all my subjects.

As I continue my Mathematics career into my second year of university, I am often dumbfounded at the magnitude of Math concepts that I have yet to learn and also the magnitude of math concepts that are yet to be studied/proved or discovered. Mathematics is still a wide-open field of research, and I am excited to see what lies in the future of math. What new theories will be made? What will their applications be?

And where will it take mankind?

### Luke Bydawell

BSc: Biomedical Mathematics

## References:

- https://mathshistory.st-andrews.ac.uk/HistTopics/History_overview/#:~:text=Mathematics%20starts%20with%20counting.,mathematics%20developed%20from%202000%20BC.
- https://zw.linkedin.com/in/vincent-machipisa-103123223
- https://applytvetcolleges.co.za/what-is-the-most-failed-subject-in-high-school/#:~:text=In%20High%20School%3F-,Algebra%20is%20the%20most%20failed%20course%20in%20high%20school%2C%20the,English%20language%20for%20nonnative%20speakers.