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Mathematics - The devils work

People and Mathematics

During my career, I have had to deal with people with many careers or disciplines. People of all disciplines are happy to read my reports, view my drawings and accept my suggestions. However, if I show them a sheet of mathematical calculations, they just switch off. This can apply to office managers, council officials, or the public. However, it can also apply to those whose job means they should be more familiar with mathematics. These include architects, accountants, ecologists or even other engineers.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Book of log tables
Book of log tables by the Enviro Engineer

Why most people have a problem

Even although, the educational system might have changed in recent years. In my school education this was treated as a separate subject, similar to history, geography, science, metalwork, or woodwork. It was just another subject, taught in isolation. There was never any attempt to show that it was the backbone of science, technology, and engineering. In the past, it was something that was totally separate and not integral to these subjects. Therefore, it is understandable that many people cannot relate to this subject.

I have often heard educationalists and mathematicians explain that everyone needs mathematics in their everyday life. They explain this as working out your pay packet or score in darts, or even when you go shopping. I agree most people require being able to add, subtract, multiply or even divide. But this is arithmetic, which is only one division of this subject. Most people cannot understand why they need to know algebra or geometry for their future career. These subjects taught in most schools are pure mathematics. They are not related to real-world situations.

Applied Mathematics

There are also areas such as statistics, computational science, mechanics of structures, fluid mechanics and particle mechanics. These are areas of applied mathematics. It’s in this area that the subject begins to make sense. Pure mathematics just provides a set of tools to apply to the real world situations.

As far as I know, schools try to provide some tools of pure mathematics. This is to prepare any students who wish to use applied mathematics later in their career. The problem is, without being able to apply it to real world situations, pure mathematics makes little sense. I have used applied mathematics all my working life. However, like many people when I was at school, I hated mathematics and could not see the point of it.

Don't pick a career in Mathematics

I failed my 11 plus and was therefore my future prospects were considered very bleak. Don’t pick a career that involves maths. That was a quote to me by a senior mathematics teacher during my secondary education. Quite pleased now that I didn’t listen to his advice or, come to think of it, much else he tried to tell me. Most of my secondary education was in England, at the end of my time in school I returned to Scotland and within a year I had won a prize for, yes, Mathematics.  I now know that my failure in the English school was not entirely my fault, but the fault of the system and a senior member of staff who couldn’t motivate me to understand the subject.

This website will not try to explain the mysteries of Pure Mathematics, but will instead concentrate on Applied Mathematics and only use the tools provided by the pure subject as necessary.

Mathematics equations
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

OK, that’s enough of my blethering or rambling text. To try and demonstrate the difference between Pure and Applied Mathematics, visit my page on Gas Laws

Page created 3 years ago
last updated 15 November 2022

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