Math Is Pleasurable And Life-Affirming, History Will Tell You WhyBy Chris Brandt, UniversityHerald Reporter
Math was originally designed to entertain, not to make people cower in fear. Ancient scholars used it to stimulate each others minds. Great discoveries were even made as a product of these stimulating math puzzles.
Studying the history of mathematics, it would be surprising to learn that math was originally designed as an intellectual diversion, one that entertain and amuse. In ancient times for example, the main reason why the Greeks study geometry is for intellectual stimulation and discovery.
They did not care about Math's personal applications.The same is true even in the medieval times. Alcuin of York, a British scholar, sent Charlemagne 50 sets of math puzzles in 799 not to annoy him but to amuse him.
The British scholar was the first one to inject humor in math problems and most of them have been used until now. One of his most famous puzzles is about a traveler who was trying to cross the river with some cabbages, a wolf and a sheep. This was even used in one of 'The Simpsons' episodes.
It is also surprising to note that most of the important discoveries, especially in the field of probability and statistics, happened while scientist were trying to figure out simple puzzles and games. In fact, most of the discoveries in statistics were the result of Blaise Pascal and Pierre de Fermat's exchanges about gambling games.
Pascal and de Fermat were not the only mathematicians to use mathematical puzzles to inspire new research. Nineteenth century mathematician Edouard Lucas, who created important advances in how the modern world understand prime numbers, invented some puzzles and wrote a book of puzzles for the public.
Math, together with logic puzzles, were meant to be life-affirming and pleasurable because it forces people to use their intelligence. Any good puzzle is not difficult to figure out and gives people an achievable goal. When the solution is found, it provides some sort of release and gratification.
Through math puzzles, adults and children find out that they are able to do what they thought they couldn't. Moreover, using deductive reasoning through simple logical steps provides comfort, especially when life becomes illogical.