Banazîr the Jedi Hobbit (banazir) wrote,
Banazîr the Jedi Hobbit

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Math, what is it good for?

This is why I like math. Math has rules. If you know the rules, you can figure out any problem.
    -dragnflye, 10 Jun 2006

You need to know math to be alive.
    -taiji_jian, 18 Jul 2006

So, what is entailed in needing mathematics? what does it mean to say "we all need math"?

Certainly it's true of analytical mathematics and music, where by analysis we mean the study of limits that underlies calculus, trigonometry, topology, even the algebra of series. Yes, a programmer or an engineer needs to apply mathematics to problem-solving. More importantly, though, it exercises a part of your brain that may be useful in nonmathematical pursuits.

Just as computer science is not mere systems administration and configuration, just as programming is not just wielding a computer, you have to think of mathematics as an exercise of skill independent from applications of that skill. I think math rests on a foundation that is common to many subject, that foundation being analytical thinking and pattern-based reasoning. As taiji_jian was saying, that foundation underlies math; I wouldn't say that it is math. I would say that math is the pure exercise of that thinking, and so is artistic creativity. A good analogy might be learning a martial art so that one can fight (possibly important) versus developing the cognitive discipline that allows one to practice the actual art.

What I agree with taiji_jian about is that people who study math are exercising a cognitive skill that can transfer to art - and vice versa, in some kinds of art.

[18:48:42] * taiji_jian has not completely forgotten everything that he drilled into his brain back when he was studying math 4 hours a day
[18:49:20] <taiji_jian> And I needed to finish highschool math so I could do college calculus
[18:49:53] <jereeza> well I needed to pass
[18:54:33] <jereeza> god I hated maths. we had as much maths & science as the science branch, and they only had one foreign language! fuckers!
[18:54:47] <figgylicious> and NO art classes
[18:55:07] <jereeza> well ok we didn't have art classes in highschool either, only art history
[18:55:11] <figgylicious> and I had to do physics and biology and chemistry and math and economics
[18:55:30] <figgylicious> in my life before college I took ONE art class, way back in 9th grade
[18:55:42] * taiji_jian shakes his head sadly
[18:55:57] <taiji_jian> You're acting like art precludes math
[18:56:06] <figgylicious> it so does
[18:56:07] <taiji_jian> Art depends on math!
[18:57:09] <jereeza> architecture does, pag. and you misworded your statement
[18:57:13] <taiji_jian> "Needing" math doesn't mean, like, encountering textbook problems in daily life
[18:57:34] <jereeza> art depends on knowing proportions and perspective and bodies and planes
[18:57:35] <taiji_jian> Which, I agree, doesn't happen often, unless you're an engineer (or an architect) or something
[18:57:43] <figgylicious> if you mean 'everything uses math' well good then. but i never use it consciously
[18:57:45] <taiji_jian> But it's like protien or something
[18:58:04] <taiji_jian> It builds your brain
[18:58:04] <figgylicious> I don't NEED to know any math to do art
[18:58:13] <taiji_jian> You NEED to know math to be alive
[18:58:13] <jereeza> it's just the world around us. art deals with it in one way, sciences in another
[18:58:15] <taiji_jian> The more math you know
[18:58:17] <taiji_jian> The better your brain is
[18:59:58] <jereeza> so I guess my brain works fine fuelled by humanities alone ;)
[19:00:01] <figgylicious> I UNDERSTAND that everything uses math. And good. Good for math. But [I don't] want to know how.
[19:02:48] <taiji_jian> It's not about specific instances of math, fig, or about using math skills in real life or whatever.
[19:02:52] <taiji_jian> It's about thought-patterns
[19:03:08] * banazir agreens

The full transcript (with a little horseplay and some irrelevant remarks cut for brevity) can be found here.

Tags: art, cognitive science, debates, discussions, education, math
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