Math demystified – What really is “math??”

If you ask someone what history is, they would say something like, “a study of past events.”  If you asked them what biology was, it becomes a little more fuzzy and may sound like “the study of living things.”  But once you get to math, there never seems to be a solid answer.  And if you try to break math down into “what” it actually is and what “doing math” means, then students and teachers alike from across the United States will break out into a mob riot on the streets.  Well, maybe not, but it would still be extreme.  So, if we don’t even know what something is, how is somebody supposed to teach it?!  Is there anyone who could help us solve this dilemma??

Enter Conrad Wolfram.

In a famous TED talk, Conrad “The Wolf Man” Wolfram breaks math down into 4 parts – Posing the Right Questions, Translating this Real World Question into a Math FormulaComputing, and then checking to make sure our answers makes sense.  The thing is, the vast majority (if not all) of math done in school focuses on step three!  Here’s a mind-bomb for ya:

The only reason we still learn with pencil-paper drills is because that’s only way it could be done for hundreds of years.

But not anymore! We have computers!  We’re essentially pushing a car that’s full of gas – we’ll still get to our destination, but our journey could be much quicker and we could go even farther than before!  From smartphones to WolframAlpha to crazy calculators, our ability to dive into the “messy math” has never been greater.

“But Dominick! Calculators dumb down math!  Students are just pushing buttons and not understanding what they’re doing!”

So you’re saying students actually understand what’s going on when they write it on a piece of paper?  Any math teacher would giggle like a school girl if they heard that.  Technology allows students to visualize.  It allows them to quickly investigate their “what if” moments.  It allows to teachers to actually show students what happens when different variables change.  So, to put it simply – Math is easy, Math is fun, Math is life, Under the sun.  

Teachers, don’t be afraid to teach your students the easy way of getting “the answer.”  There’s much bigger and better things to teach.

Students, don’t be afraid of math!  Your own natural curiosity is your greatest tool in investigating the quantitative world around you.


Stay Smart.

Dominick, Director and Lead Creative Tutor of Launch Academy, Winner of the DaVinci Scholar Award, and University Guest Speaker


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