I recently become aware of Dr Hannah Fry after watching her youtube video on how to win at Monopoly (if like me you like to keep a competitive advantage, the video is here https://youtu.be/ubQXz5RBBtU). It got me thinking about all the maths that surrounds our everyday that we take for granted as well as the “bigger maths” we tend to see as academic or professional services applications.
People are often a little scared of maths, yet it exists in so much of our everyday lives - it comes into the time we set our morning alarm clock calculated against the number of hours sleep needed; the length of time we steep our tea to ensure the perfect strength; through to the health tracker on our devices that I, like many, am addicted to, ensuring I have walked sufficient steps, climbed enough flights of stairs and fitted in some calm breathing to have a fitter stronger existence. And these are just a few cases, there are many interactions in-between that we consciously and subconsciously use maths for. It makes our lives orderly and (largely!) prevents chaos.
It goes one step further when you have a daily mental arithmetic challenge from a self-termed “mathmagenius” at your breakfast table to keep you on your toes asking long multiplication and division questions.
Beyond the everyday, we get into the realm of the bigger mathematical paradoxes. Often perceived to be the domain of mathematicians and scientists, those who have studied for years to hone their knowledge and skill. The onset of AI and machine learning is enabling these highly skilled individuals to work with large data sets to create algorithms to run sequences at scale and pace to solve fascinating but complex problems. This is the type of maths that can be daunting to the uninitiated.
After working “in data” for over 20 years, I work with various maths concepts and numbers every day. We don’t talk about finding the square root of a number, but instead the hypotheses we want to test and how we will know what’s working. It is not just the use of maths per se that I find interesting, it is how the use of maths enhances our knowledge and helps us make decisions both in professional and personal capacities. Knowing the questions to ask, where to mine for the answer and interpreting the outputs to address business challenges and opportunities is why maths has such an important role in businesses of any size and sector.
May there be more mathmagenii coming up through the ranks to continue making maths enjoyable in everyone's everyday, inspired by the likes of Dr Hannah Fry and the accessibility of data around us to fuel such thinking.