About Math

(…) tutor picks up the arithmetic and dictates the following problem to him (Pete).

”’If a merchant buys 138 yards of cloth, some of which is black and some blue, for 540 roubles, how many yards of each did he buy if the blue cloth cost 5 roubles a yard and the black cloth 3?’ Repeat what I have just said.”

Peter repeats the problem and instantly and silently begins to divide 540 by 138.

“What are you doing? Wait a moment! No, no, go ahead! Is there a remainder? There ought not to be. Here, let me do it!”

Ziboroff divides 540 by 138, and finds that it goes three times and something over. He quickly rubs out the sum.

“How queer!” he thinks, ruffling his hair and flushing. “How should it be done? H’m–this is an indeterminate equation and not a sum in arithmetic at all–“

The tutor looks in the back of the book and finds that the answer is 75 and 63.

“H’m–that’s queer. Ought I to add 5 and 3 and divide 540 by 8? Is that right? No that’s not it. Come, do the sum!” he says to Pete.

“The Tutor” by Anton Chekhov

“In all, 77% of the students seemed to believe that math was not something that could be figured out, or that made sense. It was just a set of procedures and rules to be memorized. This is, of course, exactly the opposite of true. (…) students do not see mathematics as a logical system because their teachers do not present it that way.” 
“US Math Achievement: How Bad Is It?”

We all are lousy mathematicians. What kind of economists who want to experience prosperity by harming others? What kind of minds of science who build nuclear power plants on land experiencing dangerous  earthquakes?

Numbers apply to all our decisions, our thoughts, our words, etc. Mathematical calculations must be correct.
Think about a man who wants to have more than two toys. He, in certain circumstances, says: 1+1=5. In favourable circumstances he receives 5 toys. Mathematical calculation, however, is not correct. Somewhere a tension is created because something is missing.

Of course, not everything is suitable for counting and calculation. We do not know how to measure our thoughts or ethical conducts. But those defects should not bother us because we are gifted with intuition. Our deeds are numbers of specified parameters. Mathematical equation must be correct.

How many branches are in the wheelbarrow?


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