Monday, June 26, 2006

My Kind of Math

I am fascinated by Mathematics. 

I always have been ever since my kindergarten days when I was first introduced to it. I remember sitting with my freshly sharpened Camel HB pencil, a much-used completely blackened piece of eraser and my square-lined Maths notebook drawing elaborate addition, subtraction, multiplication and division symbols. Invariably the ‘plus’ sign would turn up skewed and become indistinguishable from the multiplication ‘cross’ symbol. I would then make liberal use of the blackened eraser creating a big black patch on my notebook, and try again, further skewing the ‘plus’ sign in the ‘cross’ direction. The final results of these single-minded efforts would be something like this: 2 x 3 = 5, with an even larger and bolder ‘cross’ in red ink at the side :) Over the 22 years of my life I have mastered the art of writing the ‘plus’ sign the right way and skewing the multiplication ‘cross’ with a very high degree of accuracy and precision. Computers have made life much simpler for me – multiplications are represented by ‘*’ – a combination of my ‘+’ and ‘x’. No ‘signs’ of confusion anywhere now! 

I had an enjoyable time with all the Maths in school. As I approached the dreaded SSC exams, I realized that Maths was the only subject that I really loved – where else could one score 10 marks for writing 5 short sentences! No need for 2 page stories! Boy, wasn’t that great! No aching hands after a Maths exam… never mind the aching head from trying to figure out what those 5 short sentences should have been! Why, oh why could things not be as simple as this:

Even though I opted for Biology in junior college (JC), I did take the Maths component offered with it. That meant another two years of Calculus, Conics and Probability. I immensely enjoyed my JC Maths classes ‘cause I could let my imagination run wild. ‘Calculus’ had all these weird mysterious symbols that one used liberally in every single line one wrote – more of a class on Egyptian hieroglyphs than anything else! The different geometrical shapes in the ‘Conics’ section were food for thought, quite literally. Imagine this – an inverted cone, an oval on it, topped off with a small rotund circle. Now add the colours – brown cone, pink and cream oval and red circle – Voila! strawberry ice cream cone topped with a bright red juicy cherry! Delicious! No wonder then, given the ‘permutations and combinations’ of things to do after Maths class, the ‘probability’ of finding me at the ice cream shop always ‘tended to 1’! :D

Thanks to my excellent Maths teachers in JC, I am proficient in quite a bit of advanced Mathematics and will not be found doing silly things like this –

... I just might do sillier things!  ;)

Today, even after completing my post-graduation in Biotechnology, I need to play around with numbers, not that I am complaining or anything. Genetics has Maths, Biochemistry has Maths, and Biostatistics like the name implies has just Maths, Maths and still more Maths. As if this weren’t enough, every single experiment I perform has to be validated by a whole bunch of statistical tests! That means poor me has to burn the midnight oil, my Casio fx-100W scientific calculator by my side, my loyal partner in all activities involving the slightest hint of Mathematics. By breakfast time, I am ready with an extremely messy set of graphs with error bars strewn all across, from which interpretation of no sort whatsoever can ever be made. (In my case, I’m quite sure the ‘error bars’ themselves have a whole lot of error in them!). But despite all this, I still like Maths.

In conclusion, I reiterate what I earlier said– I am in complete awe of Mathematics, in fact I think I have fallen in love with the Mother of All Sciences. Solving a basic Maths problem every now and then keeps my brain from becoming rusty. It keeps me sharp and alert. Besides, it teaches me lessons in life as well. I approach a problem with trepidation, decide there is no way around it but through it, make up my mind to solve it, think over and analyze, and finally come up with the solution, not necessarily the right one each time. If mistaken, I retrace my steps, find where exactly I went wrong and how I could correct the mistake. The wave of joy that surges through me on correctly solving even the simplest of the simple Maths problems is inexplicable, unimaginable. It’s the same with life’s little problems, isn’t it?

I never will understand why exactly I like Maths so much. I think Calvin ‘sums' it all up real well…

And finally, for all those who understand Maths, well, here’s the eternally insoluble problem…


Anonymous Preeti said...

this one was really funny!!! loved the calculus joke..too hilarious!...

3:53 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this one. I really like your literary style.

1:31 pm  
Blogger MM said...

Thanks Preeti and Anonymous (next time please do leave your name) Glad to be the reason for a few more smiling faces :)

3:11 pm  
Blogger Nash said...

Your liking for Math is no secret from your classmates. I am sure teh joke about you inventing random numbers to and performing algebra on them for no reason is no joke.

6:01 pm  
Blogger Sandeep said...

That was an amazing post!
Yes, I do admit that there're a lot of children who've developed an aversion to Math over the years... Only because of the fact that their first encounter with the subject was so terrible.. (Blame it on that nasty math teacher maybe?)
However, like you've aptly put it, it's definitely a subject that's unavoidable, but tons of fun nevertheless!

Do keep writing!

7:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

loved the part wherein u hate math. great work.

5:02 pm  
Blogger Dan said...

Maya, excellent post. I'm the opposite with no attraction towards maths. I could never understand the limits and integration bit. Though I did have a soft spot for statistics. You have excellent writing skills. Keep writing :-)

11:46 pm  
Blogger Dan said...

Maya, excellent post. I'm of the other school. I did not really enjoy maths at school. I never really understood limits and integration. However the one exception was statistics during comp science studies. That was fun.
So even though I dont enjoy maths, I enjoyed reading your post. Keep on writing :-)

11:49 pm  
Blogger MM said...

Thank you all :)

1:43 am  

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