Mathematics, the very essence of life — by Koyikshana Bhudye

March 13, 2024 2:09 pm Published by

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“Without Mathematics, there’s nothing you can do. Everything around you is Mathematics. Everything around you is numbers.”Shakuntala Devi

We already know that Mathematics has a role to play in our everyday lives – be it our business or our personal finance – but are we really aware of the importance of this discipline in our lives? Maybe we do but Mathematics has become so inculcated in our daily lives that some individuals fail to recognise its ubiquitous presence.

So, today, as we celebrate the International Day of Mathematics, sometimes known as the Pi Day, I invite you all to take this opportunity to reflect on the immense influence that the principles of Mathematics wield in our existence. Mathematics is not only some abstract equations about finding the value of “x”; it is way much more.

The Music of Reason

Did you know that Mathematics and Music share a common link? One of the appeals of both disciplines stems from their ability to unearth and make use of different patterns, and to go beyond the differences in cultures and languages. Musical harmonies and rhythms, mathematical notions and geometric shapes are understood and appreciated by everyone. In consonance, different mathematical concepts are merged together to result in an interconnected system, just like how a symphony is obtained by adding different musical notes together.  Nevertheless, there is still a great dissimilarity between these two concepts – Music embodies emotions and expressions, and Mathematics communicates logical reasoning and truths, which is why it is often termed as the Music of Reason.

The Foundation of Science

Since the dawn of time, Mathematical rules and simulations have become a fundamental means to express complex ideas, to carry out hypothesis testing, to create models and to draw meaningful conclusions that are understood by everyone. This universality of equation-based mathematical laws, which has made Mathematics an essential part of science, goes beyond Earth and has helped into the unravelling of the intergalactic space.

Sure, the formulae such as Newton’s Laws of Gravity, Laws of Thermodynamics and Relativity formula, amongst other physicalised theories or laws, have helped in defining the trajectory of celestial bodies or the evolution of the universe in terms of energy transformation or the relationship between energy and matter. However, behind these theories, Mathematics is the mechanism that has made it possible for science to formulate them to investigate and comprehend the region outside Earth, making it possible for mankind to pilot the cosmos.

Of course, this is one of the many ways in which Mathematics has a foundational part to play. Let’s delve into a more specific context – in a field where I currently work.

The Mathematics Behind (Re)Insurance

Ask someone what they think of (Re)Insurance, and they will say something along the lines of “insurance contracts”, “protecting our assets” and “claims”. Yes, it is true to some extent, but again, behind all these things, Mathematics has a rudimentary part to play.

In Mathematics (especially in Probability and Statistics), the Law of Large Numbers states that “as a sample size grows, its mean becomes closer to the average of the whole population”. This law has then been contextualised in (Re)Insurance, whereby in this case, the Law of Large Numbers states that “if the amount of exposure to losses increases, then the actual loss experience will be closer to the expected loss experience” and this law has been used to accurately estimate the likelihood of a claim and set the appropriate premium for the policy. There are other Mathematical concepts which have been applied in this industry, for instance, Statistics, Probability, Central Limit Theorem, Markov Chains and Bayesian Probability, inter alia to better manage exposure to risk and provide appropriate coverage to policyholders.

And, in this new era of digital revolution and big data, Mathematics has become the bedrock to many state-of-the-art innovations and advancements such as Artificial Intelligence (AI). The core concepts of Data Science include linear algebra, calculus, probability theory, among other topics which have contributed to building up AI systems through data structures and algorithms that made it possible for machines to learn and take logical decisions. With the emergence of AI, emphasis is being laid on more efficient and precise statistical and data analysis, which were already a traditional aspect of (Re)Insurance.

Even if just a few domains are briefly explored here, the universal importance and relevance of Mathematics extends far beyond the areas mentioned in this post and its applications are many and diverse.

The Philosophy of Life

But have you ever realised that Mathematics is not just about numbers or equations? That it is also the very essence of our philosophy of life?

As we go about our lives, we are constantly presented with the beauty of Mathematics, and it is just a matter of our philosophical perspective. The concept of Arithmetic Progression in which the next term is obtained by adding a constant to the preceding term may teach us that our growth can also be consistent but gradual and Calculus shows us that it is not only about moving forward, but also about understanding the rates of change of derivatives. Just like that, there will be infinitesimal or even large changes in our lives which will, in turn, lead to another change during our journey of personal growth or career advancement. By understanding the rate of change at which we grow, and the rhythm at which we evolve and by integrating the various changes we encounter, we can embrace the journey of our self-discovery before attaining our goal. There are other concepts of Mathematics such as Probability Theory, to name a few, that we apply unknowingly as we navigate through life, and which remind us that life is inherently unpredictable and that we should be open and adapt to a multitude of probable events.

In the end, the International Day of Mathematics should also serve as a reminder to continue appreciating and employing the marvels and creativity of Mathematics.


Fun fact: March 14 is known as Pi Day because the mathematical constant, Pi, rounded to two decimal places, is 3.14.

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