Math

Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics. I assure you that mine are greater.
Einstein

The well-educated person is assumed to have some mathematical skills. Since I want to be one of those people, I must continuously work on my math chops. Welcome to my workout studio.

Einstein reminds us that it never gets easier. The more experience one gets, the more insurmountable the difficulties, so eventually all end up with the same insight at some level: this stuff just got too hard.

So why math for me?

  • I wanted the appearance of a well-educated person, which demands math skill.
  • Math seemed to have more gravitas than other subjects, although I wasn’t sure why.
  • It was not my best subject, but had never given me any particular grief.
  • I thought science-oriented studies would land me a job I might like, but I didn’t much like other science. Labs were not my thing. Math posed the least potential drudgery of any of technical course of study.
  • Betting four years of one’s life seems at minimum to demand  a fair game. Unlike the humanities, the math TAs had very few degrees of freedom with which to mess with one’s success.
  • The people I spent time with also liked math.

That’s as many synthetic reasons as I can muster at this late date. Who ever really knows why?

My own mathematics background now resembles a permanent hangover, a faint remnant of my college struggles of long ago. My only antidote consists of the hair of the dog that bit me, my mathematics library. All the information I seek is there, waiting, waiting, waiting…

Math was a slog for me because I never could get to the big picture, the answer to why any sane person would care about all this. I was unsophisticated (apparently more so than the usual undergraduate). Details bored me when they remained disconnected from larger purpose and motivation. I could grasp the beauty of abstraction, but without motivation beyond aesthetics, what’s the point? Math never became my passion, so I am destined to remain a math poser.

My professors seemed clueless about a need to convey mathematical motivation. It was all just learning technique, an entirely local view that assumed each textbook and its prerequisites represented the entire universe of relevant mathematics. Mathematics was thus conveyed as comprised of separable entities, not an organic whole.  Due to the lack of context, I was uninspired to put in the work necessary to become enlightened. I wasn’t mentally tough enough.

Here we are now, late in life, without a map or a plan. So I do random exploration, noodling here about anything interesting that grabs my attention. This is math at the high school level for clever students. That I can still follow and improvise mathematical trains of thought makes me feel that my math studies were not a total waste.

My scribblings are ‘organized’ into sub-menus:

About Mathematics is a series of articles describing the ‘big picture’ of mathematics, something one might wish to know before commencing formal coursework in mathematics.

Fearless Symmetry dives deeper into Algebraic Number Theory, son Barry’s research field, following, in chapters, the exposition of the book by the same name. It is essentially a long book report.

Explorations demonstrates development of an occasional mathematical train of thought, or some specific problem of interest, motivated by cognizance that mathematics can’t be experienced without getting one’s hands dirty.

Math Publishing is a meta-discussion, describing how I accomplish my scribbling here.

 

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