Math is Beautiful

My favorite phrase is “Math Is Beautiful”. I adopted this phrase because math can be fun to learn and easy to understand. Once students begin to understand the “why”, rather than just the “how”, they can begin to see that all levels of math are related to each other. They begin to understand that the same rules that they learned and applied to solve some simple addition problems, are also applied to solve even the most complex algebra problems.

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I have a passion for math and a myriad of experience teaching it. I am a Math Teacher and a Math Tutor. I have taught courses ranging from basic math (fractions, decimals, percentage, etc), up to and including college level algebra. I have taught and tutored courses online and face to face. I have also conducted classes on how to overcome math anxiety.

My overall objective in teaching and in tutoring is to help students overcome math anxiety, to show them how they can become proficient in math and also show them how math is beautiful. My methodology is to help the student to understand the “why” as well as the “how” in order to fully understand what is being taught.

Why do we have so many different forms of Math? If we investigate how a number system started way back before there was no way to answer the question, “how much”, we will see how the number systems progressed, stage by stage, from a basic tally system to our current system of very complex math. And, we will learn how the more progressive math systems utilize the tools developed by earlier systems to address problems that the earlier systems were unable to solve.

I offer a one hour presentation online to illustrate how the early number systems were developed, and how the rules and applications of the older number system enabled us to develop a more complex number system.

I start by showing how “quantity” was first expressed with a simple symbol such as a scratch or a line to indicate the quantity “1”. I then show how the symbols were grouped in sequence to indicate the total quantity. It soon becomes obvious that, as the number of events increases, it becomes more difficult to determine the actual number of events. Thus, in order to make it easier to tabulate and interpret the magnitude of events, the individual symbols were grouped into a different symbol which represented the quantity “5”.

We use that system today when we try to do things like take inventory or categorize results of polls. We call this system the ‘tally” system and it is a very effective system when the quantity that we are trying to represent is relatively small.

I then show how the need to represent larger numbers led to the development of the Roman Numerals. That system uses symbols, like the tally system did, to represent quantity. However, instead of using only two different symbols, the Roman Numerals employ 8 different symbols to represent 7 different numerical quantities; the letters I, V, X, L, C, D, and M. The position of these symbols, along with the value of the symbols themselves, determined the quantity that the group expressed.

I conclude my presentation by showing how the early concepts of symbols and grouping, which satisfied the need for representing small quantities, was incorporated and expanded to represent larger quantities. I also explain why new rules had to be developed in order to avoid possible confusion, to ensure that everyone employed the symbols in the same way, and to simplify the process.

Understanding “why” something is done is much more important than learning "how” something is done. The “how” enables us to perform the same or similar tasks. The “why” enables us to understand the current system and gives us some of the tools we will need to use in trying to learn and understand a more complex system.

I have an online presentation wherein I try to show you how simple it is to learn a new math system. I invite anyone to join me, to watch and to participate, to learn and to enjoy. I apply my methodology of having the students understand “why” something is done in the more complex system. By the end of the presentation the students will have proven to themselves that they are capable of learning a new form of math and are beginning to realize that math doesn’t have to be scary that in fact, math is beautiful.

My objective for this presentation is to show that anyone can learn a new math IF they are willing to try!!!

I emphasize the word “IF”. My experience has shown me that the major reason why most students have difficulty in math is that some students just stop trying to learn math. For some reason or another, they failed to understand the initial concepts that were presented at the beginning of the math course and this failure caused the students to become lost and frustrated as the course developed.

The most common reaction to a student’s difficulty is for the student to feel that he/she is too stupid to understand math. One of the greatest challenges that I face teaching or tutoring math is convincing the student that the student is not stupid. It sometime takes a great deal of effort to win the student’s trust and convince him/her that math is beautiful and that he/she is very capable of learning math.

Convincing someone that learning math can be viewed as a game that has challenges and rewards, and can also be enjoyable, at times is very difficult. Yet, step by step, as they begin to understand the “why”, teaching and learning becomes easier.

The greatest satisfaction that I experience in tutoring students that are having difficulty in math is to see the expressions on their faces as “the light goes on” and they prove to themselves that they have the ability to do well in math. It is after they have proven to themselves that they can be very competent in math that they willingly adopt my favorite phrase, Math is Beautiful.

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