The Mathematics of Symbols: A Closer Confrontation of the Chinese Cultural Command over Calculations
30 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2017
Date Written: October 27, 2017
Inspired by Malcolm Gladwell’s phenomenal book, Outliers, which talks about the possibility of paddy fields being the perfect place to cultivate mathematics into our genes, we consider an unintended yet welcome consequence of having numerous characters in a writing script (1, 2), towards developing a talent for symbolic manipulation, which is necessary for abstract numerical aptitude. We wish to test the hypothesis that, this introduction from an early age, to many different symbols, provides a cultural advantage, that can be useful for dealing with mathematical symbols and notation. Mathematics is perhaps, the most simple, beautiful and precise language, provided that, we are not flustered by the notation and the strange, somewhat scary characters, that pop out at us, when we are looking at advanced books on Mathematics. Mathematics is simple, because we can only move from one step to the next, based on well established rules (either assumptions or axioms or other rules derived from these foundational rules, termed lemmas or theorems). When the steps are left out, that is when chaos begin to reign.
A culture that teaches us not to get bothered, when we see new symbols is perhaps the training we need to deal with Mathematics. Whenever new symbols jump out at us, we just need to add them to our vocabulary, understand the context and proceed further. This is easier said than done, no doubt. But it will definitely not become easier, if we veer away from looking at the new symbols and stop working on becoming accustomed to them.
Keywords: Mathematics, Culture, Advantage, Stereotype, Rice, Grow, Don't, Worry
JEL Classification: G1, G2, D81
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation