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Tomas Fernandez Nuñez

Student System Engineering, TEDxUTN

TEDCRED 500+

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Do Mathematics really help us to think and open our minds?

Well, i put that TED talk because was the only one that i found kinda related to this topic.
So a year ago I was in secondary school where teach about many subjects but very little mathematical content. I saw this as a problem, since my intention after leaving school was to pursue a engineering carrier, which obviously has a lot of math. So i studied and practiced hard to pass the entrance examination. After weeks of study, i noticed that was starting to think like in a more clear and analytical way.
I'm sure that most advanced mathematics might can help us when time to think.
Maybe was a growth phenomenon? or caused by mathematics?

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  • Nov 21 2011: Tomas,
    As others have said, mathematics basically uses a specific algorithm to resolve different exercises (of course, there are lots of algorithms, formulae and theorems because there is a large spectrum of domains and areas of mathematics). In other words, you learn to apply a pattern to various problems, which leads to convergent thinking. This is useful because there are so many problems that you can't solve each one of them in a different way. So in this way, it does develop your analytical process of thinking, it helps you make rational connections and optimize the path to a solution.

    However, creativity in its main meaning is about divergent thinking, which is the opposite of what maths help you improve. Here, you find multiple solutions to a single problem (all kinds of problems, not necessarily involving numbers and calculations), and you choose the one that represents the best compromise.

    So in my opinion, the fact that you become more open-minded and creative is indirectly related to better understanding and knowing mathematics (for example, your passion can drive you to research a specific mathematician, you find about more about his life and work and you can make a better connection between the rational side and how he did it).

    I'm studying engineering like you, so I'm more interested in mathematics and physics more than the other subjects and this has indeed helped me rationalize most of the things in my life. I can advise you though to not become hung up on it because it might block/lead to a slower development of your interpersonal abilities (because you can't find reason in feelings, emotions and so on).

    All the best!

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