Math is a Game
So I’ve been thinking about it for a short while now, literally a very short while, today basically but I find that Mathematics is very much a game. It’s kind of a sad revelation seeing as I am far from school now and it would have been helpful information when I was in school.
When teachers tell you that math is fun they don’t really sell it. The books are dry, the presentations are dry, the entire experience lacks depth or beauty. Even the story experiments are absurd and boring, really I’m buying 300 apples for breakfast? Honestly who the heck buys 300 apples?
There are multiple ways it is a game, the most literal is the physical math games. Things like Rubics Cubes or the Tower of Hanoi, the latter of which is one of my personal favorites. I’m going to only discuss the ToH for a short bit because it held (and holds) a special place in my heart. When I was in High School I saw one of these on my math teachers desk.
Naturally when you find a pile of disks and some sticks sitting on someone’s desk you ask them why on earth they are there. My teacher said very simply “this is a challenge, you must move all the disks from the left most stick to the right most stick without ever letting a bigger disk lay on top of a smaller one.”
Ah, simple, wonderfully so. Then I tried it and initially I failed miserably, figuring out where to put the disks often left me with backtracking that felt wrong, evil, broken. This same problem happens with me and those blasted cubes, I can’t ever break a color on a side once I have it, doing so feels like I’ve failed and it is partly why I’ve never learned to solve it.
Which ironically means I actually did fail.
Back to the Tower, there is beauty in this game and I highly advise you try it out if you ever see one (or have one). There is an interesting limit to how many disks you can have on one of these devices, I forget how many were on the one at High School but I do recall getting better and better with each passing day until I was finishing it in under a minute. The tasks required that I basically drop them as fast as the hole touched the disk and to just blaze on through.
It took me like so many other pattern/puzzle games do, there is something magical in them.
This magic exists in actual mathematics as well, there is something beautiful in the challenge of equations. I don’t know why they often feel so dull and drab, perhaps it is the lack of relevance. I didn’t fall in love with Equations until I took Chemistry, it was here that it became relevant which was essential for me. I remember solving the equations with gusto in Ms. Kornas’ class and being delighted with every minute of it.
It was difficult, she took us along a path that grew exponentially. It wasn’t unlike seeing a tree grow frankly, you started with a single stump which then branched into problems with two puzzles, then four, then sixteen, and so on. Had the me that walked into her class seen the problems that the me at the end of her class was solving I think he might have shat himself.
But these days I can appreciate simple puzzles, I don’t always get them correct (for some reason exponents really screw with me) but it is still fun to look at them and try to figure them out. They are games, little challenges, they are no different than Sudoku (which somehow ends up being far more popular to Americans than regular equations).
-1x + -1 = 221 + 2x
Alright haha, so I keep making equations with infinite solutions then writing far too much and realizing I might be a little mentally broken. So now I’ve just grabbed a problem from a mathematics website which actually has a solution >.>.
Don’t let your kids do drugs folks, they’ll end up looking silly while trying to make random math problems.
Anywho so lets solve that silly thing. It’s not super complicated so this shouldn’t take too many steps. We know what the goal is, much like a game of portal, I’ve got my companion cube [X] and I want to move it from one side of the room (in this case its in two places at once I suppose) and put it on the other side of the room (or a better analogy I guess would be I want to merge two pieces of a broken companion cube together).
I suppose the first thing I’ll want to do is add 1 to each side…it’s just kind of sitting there all negative and ruining my buzz.
-1x= 222 + 2x
But now its all too positive for my tastes, its like a bunch of drunkards at a bar. So lets subtract 2x from both sides.
Now we divide each side by 3 and get the following.
So I’m going to let you in on a little secret, here is where I screwed up twice before I realized what I was doing wrong. I’ve solved for negative X…but I want positive X. So now I’ll multiply each side by –1.
Now lets plug this biatch into the main formula!
-1(-74)+-1 = 221 + 2(-74)
So we’ll use the order of operations PEMDAS (Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and then Subtraction).
This brings us to the next step which is subtraction. Adding a negative is the same as subtracting the number so I’m just skipping that step visually.
Fantastic, so I had to double check the site because apparently I am an idiot. When adding 1 to each side I ended up subtracting 1 and making “220” instead of “222” which leaves you with NEARLY the same answer at the bottom but just enough wrong to be entirely wrong but close enough to make me think I’m insane.
It’s good stuff though, lots of fun. You approach this challenge and you prove yourself better than it (one hopes). Mathematics has many levels too, most of which I have not achieved (otherwise I wouldn’t be giving a simple basic algebra problem as my example).
I feel like when Mathematics is taught it should be done alongside science, because doing this sort of work alongside chemistry equation solving would have been profoundly helpful for me. Maybe I’ll grab some cheap math textbooks for higher level math and see what I can teach myself. A fun note, whenever I listen to European professors talk about math and science they call them the (maths and sciences) and yet when I type maths into windows live writer I get a really angry red line.
The Math Warrior may be the dumbest thing I’ve ever drawn, I’m so pleased. (Yes that 4 is a shield and the 1 is a sword, obviously).