# The Meaning of Mathematics – Maths defined

Numbers, sums, equations, patterns, sequences, problem-solving, formulas, confusion…

What comes into your head when you think about ‘maths’? Should we think more about ‘mathematical concepts’ and look deeper into what maths is all about, rather than accepting maths as being solely about numbers and work books?

‘Mathematics’ is defined as,
“The abstract science of number, quantity, and space, either as abstract concepts (pure mathematics) or as applied to other disciplines such as physics and engineering (applied mathematics)”.  (Oxford University Press, 2015)

So, what is maths? Maths can be confusing for many people. Many people believe you either have a ‘maths brain’ or you do not. I believe maths can be confusing, however I passionately argue that maths, the majority of the time is equations and formulas to follow. My view is maths can be straight-forward, if you allow it to be, or as the teacher, if you facilitate it right; it’s made up of steps and strategies. The difficult concept to grasp in maths is understanding those strategies, formulas and equations. Given you have that understanding, you are able to follow the steps and reach your solution – your answer.

However, saying that, is maths all about finding an answer? The problem-solving involved in mathematics is easier for me personally, because I enjoy being challenged to think and to think about problems from various perspectives. So, I enjoy the aspect of thinking about maths in contexts, as it has a purpose. I like to think of this as meaningful learning. In summary, I view problem-solving in mathematics as meaningful learning.

That’s not to abolish that other elements of mathematics are not intended purposeful learning. As stated by Scottish Government,
“Mathematics is important in our everyday life. It equips us with the skills we need to interpret and analyse information, simplify and solve problems, assess risk and make informed decisions.” (Scottish Government, Education Scotland, 2015)

I agree with this – maths is important. Maths can be used everywhere in situations, without us recognising that we are using our mathematical understanding. How would we be able to tell the time? How would we be able to implement time management skills? How would we know to recognise significant dates? Would you know when your own birthday is approaching? How would we manage finances and handle money? I could not think of one occupation or career that does not involve mathematical elements in some way. Could you?

Maths is fundamentally important in every day life, I agree.

References

Oxford University Press (2015) Oxford Dictionaries: Language Matters. Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/mathematics. Last Accessed: Nov 5 2015.

Scottish Government (2015) Education Scotland: Mathematics. Available at: http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/learningandteaching/curriculumareas/mathematics/. Last Accessed: Nov 5 2015.