Monday, December 1, 2008

2008: A Good Year for Mathematics?

Year of the rat, year of the environmentally embattled frog, the year 2008 is now known by many things. Why not make it a good year to make everyone more aware of the benefits of mathematics in today’s society?

By: Vanessa Uy

Inexplicably, 2008 was arbitrarily tagged as the year of mathematics, marked by the de rigeur discussion / reiteration of the importance and indispensability of mathematics in today’s society. Like the application of advanced mathematics in credit derivatives – a financial instrument, which probably less than 10,000 people around the planet fully understand – plus the other esoteric mathematical tools to allow these instruments to be traded ubiquitously on the stock market. Not to mention the other math tools now widely utilized to lessen the impact of our current financial crisis. Plus the somewhat “overwrought” discussion on the contribution of mathematics that made cheap but powerful computers a reality and what have you. Then there’s that perennial belletristic diatribe on which likes or who is more “comfortable” with mathematics: girls or boys?

Mathematics, which can be both the queen and handmaiden of all the branches of all the sciences is indeed burdened with long-standing issues. Given mathematics’ overall decline in popularity since the end of America’s manned lunar exploration program – despite contemporary society’s utter dependence on it in order to function – any program aiming to make mathematics more popular – especially to the younger generation – should be embraced with open arms. It’s been known for sometime now that those who depend mathematics for their day jobs are somewhat “socially ignored” despite of their utter indispensability in today’s society. Even us, who are only using mathematics for “hobby” purposes should be grateful that academia is busy promoting mathematics to the general public. Maybe in the future, more people will understand why some are fascinated by mathematics – even at just a hobbyist’s level.

Year of the rat, year of the environmental degradation embattled frog, 2008 might be remembered as a pivotal year when mathematics gained widespread popularity again – like it did during the Eisenhower administration. Given that career mathematicians are now getting consultation-related work on formulating plans to end our current ever deepening global financial crisis, 2008 might indeed be a good year for mathematics.

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