To Mathematics or to not Mathematics, that’s the question?

So many students ponder this very weighty question, should they ‘drop’ to Mathematical literacy or stay with ‘pure’ Mathematics. To prove this statement here are a mere twenty topics to name but a few, to illustrate the influence of Mathematics on our everyday lives and the careers that use Maths as their foundation.

###### #1 Mathematics and the Universe

Mathematics is the language of the universe and in learning this beautiful language, you are introducing yourself the fundamental mechanisms by which the cosmos functions. Some people go as far as to say that our universe is literally made out of Mathematics in the same way that computer programmes are made out of code.

The earth rotates around it’s own axis as well as in an eliptical path around the sun. The earth’s axis is at a twenty three degree tilt angle. The combination of the above causes our seasons like Summer and Winter as well as day and night. Elips, axis, degrees and time are all Mathematical terms used to describe shapes, position and size.

###### #2 Mathematics and Nature

The golden ratio is a mathematical concept you can find everywhere in nature – from the proportions of your face and the phalanges of your fingers to the pillars of the Parthenon.

There are many examples of Mathematics working in nature. The construction of sea shells and even sunflower seeds, are examples of Fibonacci Sequence. Another example is the hexagonal construction of honeycomb, one of the strongest shapes known to man(bees).

A fractal is a shape that we see all over in nature. It is a self-similar, repeating never ending shape, meaning the same basic shape repeats itself. Fractals make up many aspects of our world, including leaves of ferns, tree branches, the branching of neurons in our brains and something known as a Koch snowflake.

###### #3 Mathematics and Astronomy

Mathematics has been of central importance to astronomy. As soon as observations became quantified the possibility for calculation and prediction based on observations was open to astronomers. Mathematical developments were both applied to and motivated by astronomical calculations, and many of the most famous astronomers were also mathematicians and vice versa.

Telescope designs make use of lenses, prisms and parabolic reflectors which are all related to Mathematical concepts. Distances between heavenly bodies, planets, stars are expressed in light years which is intricate Mathematical calculations.

Early mariners used trigonometry for navigation at sea and is based on spherical trigonometry. The exact position of a ship can be determined by the angle the celestial body makes with the horizon, measured at a precise time. The angle and precise time measurements are compared with tables of known values.

###### #4 Mathematics and GPS Navigation

Global Positioning System (GPS) is made possible by satellites orbiting the earth. GPS, as intricate as it may look, works based on a simple Mathematical Process named 3-dimensional Trilateration. A GPS device communicates with four or more satellites to determine it’s exact location coordinates (latitude and longitude) anywhere on earth. It works in any weather. This is Mathematics at it’s best.

###### #5 Mathematics and Communication

Your cell phone is a very good example of modern communication. It starts with a radio link between your cell phone and a nearby cell phone tower. From the tower it goes via a ground system cable to a service provider who in turns send the signal via satellite (for long distance calls). All of this is radio waves which in turn can be described as sinus waves, a branch of Trigonometry.

###### #6 Mathematics and Information Technology

Computers form the backbone of Information Technology (IT). The Mathematics used here is called the binary number system which consist of 1’s and 0’s. Information Technology is to be found everywhere in modern society. From barcodes to ATM’s and again your beloved cell phone and even your pocket calculator all use IT. Google uses a branch of Mathematics called algorithms whereby they are used to give the best possible outcome or result whenever someone searches something on Google.

###### #7 Mathematics and Aviation

Aircraft design includes many aspects of Physics which in turn is directly related to Mathematics. Newton’s laws as well as Aerodynamics are pure Mathematical calculations. Apart from this, all modern aircraft have GPS navigation systems, radio communication systems and a host of other electronics on board. A pilot needs to be familiar with Mathematics, such as, basic arithmetic, geometry, trigonometry, interpolation and mental maths.

###### #8 Mathematics and Defense

Any modern-day defense force relies heavily on electronics which we have discussed, relating to Mathematics. These may include aircraft, communications, navigation, projectile parabolic trajectories. Basic Mathematical concepts like speed, distance and atmospheric conditions all play a role in the technology of artillery accuracy. Reconnaissance has always been a major part of warfare. Modern reconnaissance includes satellites, aircraft, drones, radar and radio technology, all based on Mathematics.

###### # 9 Mathematics in Civil Engineering and Architecture

Parabolas and hyperbolas are basic shapes on which bridges and dam walls are designed. Triangles can be found in most domestic roof trusses. Skyscrapers and high-rise buildings would not be possible without Mathematical calculations. Cathedrals and domes are more typical examples of this. For thousands of years Mathematicians have designed famous historic structures such as the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the Colosseum and the Parthenon. Slightly more modern examples are The Taj Mahal and Hagia Sofia.

###### #10 Mathematics in Electricity and Electronics

As recent as the mid nineteenth century, electricity was discovered by man. Michael Faraday invented the electric motor in 1821, and Georg Ohm mathematically analysed the electric circuit in 1827. We can hardly imagine our world without electricity/electronics today. Ohm’s law V=IR, where V= Volts, I = Current (Amperes) and R= Resistance (Ohm), uses basic Algebraic concepts to manipulate the formula. Further developments include transistors, capacitors and integrated circuits (IC’s), which all form part of electronics, the basis of modern technology.

###### #11 Mathematics and Transport

Transport has many forms in the modern day. Trains, boats, planes, cars, busses and motorcycles all use different applications of Mathematics. A typical Mathematical concept will have to be employed when a railway line is being built. A gradient higher than 1,5 degrees is not advisable for normal railroads. On most railways, the steepest grades are 1 in 40, meaning the line would rise 1 metre in every 40. On narrow gauge lines, the steepest gradients are 1 in 30.

###### #12 Mathematics and Finance

Budgeting, saving, spending and investment. Finance is Mathematics. Think about interest rates when buying a car or a house. Exponential growth of your investment. Simple and compound interest, all form the foundation of the monetary system in the world. The exchange rate when converting your money into a different unit. Bankers use Mathematics to help them understand and evaluate the fluctuations in the markets and to evaluate risk assessments.

###### #13 Mathematics and Statistics

There is a saying, “You get lies, damn lies and then Statistics”. These are harsh words but the truth is that Statistics is a branch of Mathematics that is used in so many different applications. Governments have regular censuses where they count all the people in a specific country and the information is then used to plan for the future. For example, they will know how many schools and hospitals need to be built in order to cater for future generations’ needs. Statistics gives us more accurate knowledge which helps us make better decisions and gain a better understanding of the world around us.

###### #14 Mathematics and Lotto

It’s been said that, Lotto is a form of taxation on people who don’t understand Maths. Your chance of winning the lotto in South Africa is 1 in 20 358 520. Probability is a branch of Mathematics that works on a scale from 0 to 1. The simplest way to describe this is that if it is a sunny day with no clouds and no rain, the probability is 0 for rain. If it is overcast and the humidity is high and there’s a cold front then the chance of it raining is 100%, then the probability is 1. Gambling and rolling a dice both work on the Mathematics of Probability.

###### #15 Mathematics and Medicine

Think about when visiting the doctor. They measure your temperature and take your blood pressure. All of the readings that the doctor uses to make a diagnosis boils down to Mathematics. When the pharmacist dispenses your medicine, they also use Maths, for example, 3mg off this active ingredient should be in the cough syrup etc. The whole Science of medicine is built on numbers and quantities to assist them in giving care to the sick.

###### #16 Mathematics and Agriculture

There are several applications of Maths that farmers use in agriculture. To give you an idea is that they do crop estimation and water management. Farmers use numbers and their mathematical knowledge and abilities in their everyday lives. Some of them have tools and formulas to help them with calculations and estimations on how much seed to plant, how large a field should be and make predictions on the size of their harvest. They use all sorts of measuring units like hectares, gallons, tons and cubic metres. A new trend in farming is to utilise drones. These can supply a farmer with analytical information concerning his crops. The use of drones is a combination of the already mentioned reconnaissance, aviation and GPS.

###### #17 Mathematics and Art

Mathematics has itself been described as an art motivated by beauty. They are related in a vast variety of ways. Mathematics can be seen in symmetry, reflection and translations of tiles. Some cultures use these principles and the translation of geometric figures to beautifully decorate the outside walls of their houses. Think about mosaic tiles that uses the concept of tessellations to form extraordinary pieces of art.

Many of the core skills in art and math are closely related and inter twined. Both disciplines require spatial reasoning skills and the ability to recognise patterns. Mathematicians and artists use geometry in their work, including shapes and rigid forms, measurement and proportion.

###### #18 Mathematics and Photography

Most of us share our life on social media. We upload thoughts, videos and pictures on all kinds of social platforms. There is a mantra that photographers use to make the photos appealing to everyone looking at them. This is called the rule of thirds. It is one of the first rules that a photography student learns. This is used while taking a photo or when they edit the photo. The photo is imagined to be divided in three parts, both vertically and horizontally. Almost all latest phones and cameras have the setting that allows you to see grid lines on the screen when you take a photo.

The idea behind this is that you place the object of the photo along the four lines or at one point of the intersection. This means your subject is one third into the picture space, from any side. This makes the picture more appealing to the human eye.

Photographers also use maths as settings for their cameras, including shutter speed, aperture and focal length.

###### #19 Mathematics and Music

“There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.” – Pythagoras. Probably the closest connection between the world of music and mathematics is that they both use patterns. Music has repeating choruses and sections of songs and maths patterns are used everywhere. Students discover that patterns in music relate to the Fibonacci Sequence. The sequence goes: 0; 1; 1; 2; 3; 5; 8; 13;21;21;34; and so on. If you look very closely at piano scales, you will realise that there are 13 keys in the C scale, eight white keys and five black keys. Music being a genre of mathematics is included among the “quadrivium” of other mathematical arts like Geometry, Arithmetic and Astronomy.

###### Conclusion.

My conclusion is simple. Mathematics, not Mathematical literacy, makes the world go round. Enjoy the ride!

When choosing subjects, Mathematics is what you need. If you need help please click here.

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