In university, I fell in love with mathematics. Which really means that I fell in love with beauty, truth, and mystery. I am grateful every day that mathematics found me and enriched my life. And today, I want to tell you a little about my experience as a mathematics major. So, without further ado, here are 5 thing you learn from being a math major.
1. You Are Capable of More Than You Realize
Learning formal mathematics is like stepping into an entirely new mode of thinking. The questions are hard, requiring you to use your brain in deeply analytical and creative ways. When I arrived at university, I had no idea that my brain was capable of the feats of pure mathematics. It was incredible to move from a place of doubt, thinking myself incapable of dancing with these mysterious abstractions and symbols, to realizing that my brain worked in ways I could have never imagine. Even now, it amazes me when I succeed in solving a difficult problem. Without a doubt, being a student of mathematics has taught me that I’m capable of far more than I realize, and this confidence inspires me in many other areas of my life.
2. There Is Far More to Life Than Meets the Eye
I remember one day, as a child, playing with a collection of sticks. I was making a pyramidal structure, and to me, there was something deeply fascinating about this structure. It felt like there were layers and layers of information embedded within it, information that was just out of my reach. I look back now, and think that at the time, I was experiencing a glimpse into the infinite depths of mathematics. Being a math major truly teaches you that there is far more to life than meets the eye. Take graph theory for instance, a mathematical subject that deals with simple objects called graphs, which are essentially dots and lines. There are hundreds of beautiful, deep, enchanting ideas and insights behind these incredibly simple objects. Mathematics has taught me that nothing is simple. Our world is one of great depth.
3. This Universe is a Beautiful One
I believe that beauty exists in all sorts of places. And while high school mathematics may not have seemed all that beautiful to you (depending on what you learned and who taught you), I assure you, true mathematics is absolutely breathtakingly. When mathematicians talk about ideas, we use words like nice, beautiful, natural, elegant, and powerful. Mathematician G.H. Hardy famously said: “Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics.” I’m not joking when I say that there have been times where I’ve almost cried on the bus ride home from class, because I felt so grateful for the opportunity to witness such a rare expression of beauty. Being a math major has taught me that our universe is a beautiful one.
4. If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try, Again
Did I mention that mathematics is hard? Mathematics is a very difficult subject to study, and failure has been a huge part of my experience as a math major. In my first few courses of formal mathematics, I was hopelessly behind. I looked at the board and saw Latin, but I sensed the patterns, the structure, and the rhythm behind what was being discussed and I desperately wanted in. And so I persevered, I tried, I failed, and I tried again. Slowly, the doors to this wonderful subject began to open for me. Even right now, beside my desk are a couple of half-completed assignments with some questions I fought and mastered earlier this week, some questions I’m fighting with now, and some questions I’m dearly hoping are easier than they look. Math majors learn a lot about failure, but just as much about perseverance.
5. There Are Things That Are Bigger Than Yourself
Being a math major teaches you that there are things bigger than yourself. My mathematical thinking has its limits, meaning that there are ideas that I can grasp, idea that I dance with, and ideas that are purely beyond me. I can feel it, I can feel the grandeur of mathematics. And this used to be frustrate me, because I wanted to understand everything, but now it humbles me. I look up at the stars and I feel small; I meditate on the enormous, mysterious, divine scope of mathematics and I feel even smaller.
I hope you enjoyed this excursion into the mind of a very passionate math major. Think you might want to be a math major? You’ll learn all of the above and so much more. Studying mathematics has truly been one of the best decisions of my life, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.