Friday, December 11, 2015

Was math invented or discovered?

In our last class of the semester, we were asked two questions: is math a science and was math discovered or invented. We then went on to have a discussion on whether or not it was a science because the class was much more split. For the question of was math discovered or invented, basically everyone in the class said it was discovered except me and like one or two other people. I thought I'd make this blog post to share my thoughts on why I think it was invented.

I think the biggest influence for me is what I attempted to describe in class, and I'll admit didn't do a very good job vocalizing my thoughts. I personally feel that math is extremely similar to something like language. Early civilizations needed a way to communicate with each other and eventually different languages were born. In a similar fashion, I feel like mathematics came about in a way close to this. I will say this is purely my thoughts and for all I know they could be completely wrong. However, I think earlier people needed a way to describe how many of something they had or a way to describe how much they owed another person so they invented certain ways to say these things. As a result mathematics was invented as a tool to get fix certain problems they had.

On the other side, I will have to say that the biggest argument that would sway me into thinking math was discovered is how did people invent all these crazy theorems and find all these interesting patterns, like prime numbers. It seems ridiculous to say someone invented all of these crazy ideas in mathematics.

Even though I say math is invented instead of discovered, I would have to say that I lean more towards the middle of the spectrum. I understand there are valid reasons for both arguments and they both make a lot of sense. Do I think that it really matters if math was invented or discovered? No not really. At least to me, I can appreciate and use mathematics in my life without really caring how it actually came about. Others might be more concerned and have stronger opinions on the matter. If it were to come out tomorrow that math was discovered, in no way would that change my opinion of mathematics, and I'd still continue to enjoy it.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you made your case. As an exemplar you would want a bit more content to be complete. This could be researching a bit on the math is language idea, or expanding your argument about how that relates to invented or discovered. Or bring in an orthogonal argument, like the Incompleteness Theorem and how that fits into your framework. clear, coherent, consolidated +

    A grad school friend always said: Math is a language in which you can only write poetry. I may just write doggerel, but I'm glad to have learned enough to read the great works.