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Origins and development of your interest in math

How did you get your start in pursuing mathematics (at least in a recreational sense), and as a followup how did you then develop your mathematical skills and knowledge?

In my case I was initially interested in physics (specifically Astronomy) at a young age, I was fascinated with knowing how things worked, but could only grasp the conceptual aspects of it due to my lack of the mathematical knowledge. It was in my time studying introductory calculus that I began to develop an appreciation for mathematics, however something always bothered me, textbooks always showed me how to do something, like finding the curvature of a function on some interval, but never showed me why the formulas and theorems worked, or how I could apply them outside of the given examples. The deeper I looked into Calculus the more I found connections between it and other branches of mathematics. I actually tried making a tree diagram of mathematical concepts to try and see if I could get a grasp of how the various fields worked together. Although I failed in my endeavor I became very interested in Mathematics and decided to ask my aunt, (who had a doctorate in pure mathematics) what was really going on with mathematics, why do these things work, and how could I use them. She then introduced me to Galois Theory and taught me a trick one of her colleagues showed her, as set of a equations you can derive from Galois Theory to solve a Rubik cube. At first I couldn't believe my eyes, how could a string of numbers and letters do what took me half an hour to accomplish? I tried for hours on end to stump the equations, surely at some point they wouldn't work, but they always did. From that point on I was hooked on mathematics, still interested in physics as well, and have spent most of my free time learning new things about mathematics and physics.

Problem solving was something I wasn't interested in until I found this website over a year ago, the site was barely two months old, however when I tried solving a few problems I found it to be fun, very much so, even when I got a problem wrong it was exciting, it gave me the chance to learn something new. It was unexpected but problem solving became almost a hobby of mine, I'd buy books by Martin Gardner and see what I could do, it kinda made me feel like a detective, using pieces of information to draw a valid conclusion. Most of the time it was a challenge, but if it wasn't, there wouldn't be much point in doing it.

Note by Nikhil Pandya
4 years ago

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8 votes

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Well, I for one have had an affinity for math since very early in my life. I really didn't pursue it recreationally until middle school. I gained knowledge of math competitions in sixth grade, my first year in middle school. My wonderful math teacher saw my expressed love of math and introduced MATHCOUNTS. I liked that, was an alternate that year (and outplaced someone else on the team; unfortunately it didn't count...), and went on to Mu Alpha Theta 7th and 8th grade as well as MATHCOUNTS. Now as a freshman in high school, I feel held back from further math. The only competition program is underfunded and undercommited by teachers this year, so there is only set to be 3 regional competitions... It's a bit depressing but that's not what your prompt was addressing, so...

To develop skills, I really didn't do anything special. I read the occasional book and pondered some mysteries of math. For math competition practice in school, we worked through old tests. Now I (We) have Brilliant and we all know how that helps.

I'm interested in your answers to the questions and why you're interested?

http://mathcounts.org/ <- Link for anyone interested in what it is.

Justin Wong - 4 years ago

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Brilliant provides a more sociable medium to connect with others around the world who like mathematics and science than other websites and forums, like any of the stack-exchange or AoPS. It's nice to be able to see different outlooks and stories of people getting interested in something, mathematics and science in this case.

Nikhil Pandya - 4 years ago

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My start was very much similar to Nikhil's. I had this natural desire to understand lucidly and deeply whatever I saw or even imagined of. Physics was my starting point.Eventually I discovered that I was only understanding things in a sort of a qualitative way. But, it was until I discovered the structure and beauty in mathematics and what the equations actually say, I started understanding everything more precisely. Mathematics has made me understand physics correctly. Also,I do believe that deep down, at the most fundamental level, the universe is harmonic mathematically! Brilliant has always been a conducive agent to my quest of understanding things. :)

Samarth M.O. - 4 years ago

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My interest in mathematics arose some time ago. I started to like in second grade and always (or almost always) was the first to finish the problems of multiplication and division. In fourth grade I won a math book eighth grade that my neighbor wants to throw out, but then thought to give me, since I was so fond of mathematics. It was from them that I learned a lot of things like quadratic equations. In the fifth series I got my first computer where I started researching more and more about math. Also during this series that I won my first prize about math. It was a bronze medal in OBMEP I already quoted before and posted about problems. The following year I won a gold medal after I struggled more. This year I hope to spend the second phase which will be in September. Today I'm in eighth grade and math for me is one of the best things you can learn. Sorry about my bad English.

Victor Paes Plinio - 3 years, 5 months ago

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i'm probably a one percenter here in the brilliant community. my interest for mathematics was really stunted for the longest time. during my childhood, im not the type who's pays attention to the tiny details which lead to make many careless mistakes in my early maths and no one was really there to check where i was making mistakes so it really discourage me to pursue anything math related although my interest in the sciences is far stretching however limited because i can't find anybody i know that can teach me the mathematical concepts that i direly want to know. i was not bad in math at all, i was a bit above average but was never an excellent math student. the worse thing is, i used to believe that math is supposed to be an innate ability that cannot be improved. but as technology improved, we finally gained access to the internet only during my college years. well it sucks that i never thought of pursuing a STEM field. but now after graduating i finally found sites like khanacademy and brilliant to make up for the years wasted in hopes to be competent enough in mathematics to go back to school again

Terrell Bombb - 1 year, 5 months ago

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Actually, that's a much more common use case than you would expect. I blame the education system for not helping people develop their interest in mathematical/scientific ideas.

Yes, it takes time to fix those issues, and I'm glad you've already identified them! Math, along with almost everything else, is something that improves with the correct practice approach.

Calvin Lin Staff - 1 year, 5 months ago

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Thank you for your kind and encouraging words good sir!

Terrell Bombb - 1 year, 5 months ago

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My interest started last year, when i signed up at Brilliant and I took the Kangaroo Catalonia's Contest. Problems from Kangaroo are great!

Jordi Bosch - 4 years ago

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