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Many people think that they don't like math and they think its hard,
they think its very formal, they think it doesn't say anything to them
about their lives or something that they enjoy. But in fact I believe
that the ability to appreciate math lies in everybody.
For example, for me, Mathematics is just a way of connecting
ideas that are really far apart from each other and sort of building
a path or stepping stone to get from point A to point B.
Maybe as a mathematician I'm sort of in this ether world, or look at
the world from a different view point where I just see mathematics
everywhere.
The amazing thing about mathematics is that it can tell you things
about the world. That's something we know, but what does that really mean.
One of the things I think is important to understand is that math is not
just about formulas. It's about ideas.
The Math Department at MIT is the department that has the largest
number of double majors. So what that means is that a lot of students
at MIT like to do math because they recognize it is a really solid
background to have, and then they attach something that they really
want to do with their life. Many of them major in economics. Many
of them major in biology. But the fact that we have the largest number
of double majors speaks to the fact that math is the interdisciplinary
piece with respect to all the other kind of majors you can have at MIT.
The Math Department allows you to take a lot of courses that you just
get to choose. You have to take some requirements but you get to choose
a lot of them, and then you get to find something you like and really take
a lot of courses in that and do a lot of really cool things.
We also teach communication intensive courses in mathematics,
which is very unusual. The communication intensive courses are
courses in which students learn how to write and how to communicate in
the major; so how to write in mathematics and how to communicate in
mathematics.
The students are fantastic. They are also very much willing to learn how
to write a paper in math, how to deliver math, and they themselves feel like
by the end of the class they can express their mathematical ideas much
better than in the beginning. So its very interactive and I think at the
end of the day very useful.
The Math Department is great. Its a little daunting at first, especially
because there are some people who come from backgrounds where they
went to some big private school and did a lot of competition math and
all sorts of math that just wasn't available or I didn't know existed before
I came to MIT. It's been a great experience. I've learned a lot about me as a
person and said, "OK, this is definitely what I want to do." And I think
you know what you want to do when you're just so happy doing whatever
it is in the subject, really, no matter what it is.
What's amazing is how mathematics is used universally among people.
So the mathematics that we do here in the United States is the same
mathematics that goes on in other countries.
It's a very challenging subject but it is also a very well organized subject.
There's not such a thing as a gray area, either you get it or you don't
get it. Just like YES or NO.
Mathematics is just everywhere and if we can understand mathematics
and understand how it relates to the world then we can just make a better
world. Because everything's just mathematics.