Student: “I like math because there’s only one right answer.”
(I’m thinking: “But to what question?”)
I like math because the real possibilities exist in the questions you come up with yourself. There’s this sense of pushing on the edges of what you know about the universe, and a grasp of mathematics means you’re equipped with the tools you need to answer those questions. I like math because it means puzzling and pondering, making stuff up and seeing what happens. When you “finish” a problem, you don’t have to be finished with a problem. You can go all “pirates” on it (YES DAWSON) and push past the obvious end point to extend, discovering some really enthralling, almost magical things. Sometimes the things that you find answer a question you weren’t even asking (like cryptography emerging from number theory!) I like math because doing it takes guts and persistence, a parallel distrust of accepting what has not been proven / trust that mathematical instinct can ultimately lead you somewhere solid. You get to act upon intuition about the way things are connected, and like putting pieces together to form an elaborate puzzle, you actually get to construct the structures that hold up those truths.
“This is the way mathematicians work – they stare at something, they don’t know how it works, then they give it a name.”
–Dan Guralnik (my Linear Algebra professor at Vanderbilt)
“The way of mathematics is to make stuff up and see what happens; so let’s see what happens if…”
–Vi Hart, Pi Is (Still) Wrong
“In mathematics the art of proposing a question must be held of higher value than solving it.”