I do not like math

by lsusr1 min read29th Apr 20206 comments


World ModelingRationality

I do not like math very much.

I do not find math completely boring. If I were stuck in a prison cell I'd happily do math until I expired from a ruptured spline. Insofar as I have escaped prison, I have attempted to escape math too.

Avoiding math was particularly difficult while I earned my bachelor's degree with majors in physics and (a-hem) pure mathematics. Undaunted, I found many ways to avoid doing real math while ostensibly doing math.

The lowest-hanging fruit to go unpicked was proofs. Many math classes are nothing but a professor proving a single theorem. We were never tested on anything but the conclusion. Students majoring in math are expected to pay intrinsic interest to these lectures. I daydreamed through them all. A mathematician writing a proof of a theorem is strong Bayesian evidence the theorem is true. Lots of other students watched the professors for errors. Transparency is the best disinfectant. This is good enough for me. With so much transparency, reading the proofs felt redundant, like irradiating my hands and then washing them. I wash my hands of, well, washing my hands.

My favorite method of avoiding math is proof by contradiction. Proof by contradiction assumes a theorem is false and then contradicts itself with a counterexample. It's obscenely dissatisfying.

Alas, some things are not provable by contradiction. This called for last resorts. Unable to do real math, I performed a physics substitution. I translated the math problem into physics, solved the problem and then translated it back into pure mathematics. In this way, calculus became kinematics, real analysis became electrodynamics, complex analysis became quantum mechanics, group theory became gauge theory and linear algebra became machine learning.

I didn't start gauge theory and machine learning until after I had nearly failed my algebra classes. Oops. Aside from this hiccup, my degree in pure mathematics became a cozy math supplement to my physics degree.

My professors taught me lots of math despite my best efforts to the contrary. For this I am grateful. Math was the second-hardest subject I've ever studied. Some day I hope to be good enough at math that I can work out how to not come across as "weird" in an informal social setting.