• Question: does looking at numbers everyday ever get tedious or boring

    Asked by ivy on 30 Jun 2020.
    • Photo: Alan Champneys

      Alan Champneys answered on 30 Jun 2020:


      No. I don’t look at numbers. I mostly look at symbols (algebra) and words (descriptions of mathematical models) and computer code. I much prefer thinking about concepts to working with numbers or symbols though.

    • Photo: Peter Kropholler

      Peter Kropholler answered on 1 Jul 2020:


      The more you look at numbers the more interesting they become. It never gets boring. Looking at numbers is like walking through a field of wild flowers – all different colours and shapes and characters.

    • Photo: Andrew Harrison

      Andrew Harrison answered on 1 Jul 2020:


      Most mathematicians don’t look at numbers directly. Most of my mathematical work involves writing computer code to manipulate the numbers. I rarely see actual numbers. I mostly look at symbols (algebra) which I translate into computer code.

      More of my work now is in natural language processing, which is using maths and computer code to automatically understand English words like these. My maths is a long way from numbers.

    • Photo: Omduth Coceal

      Omduth Coceal answered on 1 Jul 2020:


      I guess it would be, if I had to do that. For example, I’d honestly get bored stiff if I were looking at spreadsheets all day. Luckily doing maths in scientific research in much more interesting than just looking at numbers. You get to deal with beautiful equations, solve them using clever techniques in calculus, sometimes requiring a great deal of creative thinking. Often you need to write computer code and visualise the results using graphs and colourful plots. Then you get to think about what it all means in the real world, so the maths becomes alive so to speak. Sometimes, it can even sound a bit more like poetry than times tables! Real maths is never boring to me.

    • Photo: Chris Budd

      Chris Budd answered on 2 Jul 2020:


      I love numbers and they never get boring. My own are of maths is called numerical analysis, which can be thought of as the study of numbers on a computer and then using them to solve problems with. My own favourite number is 31.

    • Photo: Liam Brown

      Liam Brown answered on 2 Jul 2020:


      To add to the answers already given, numbers are a language. You could also ask someone “does looking at words every day ever get tedious or boring?” Well, it depends what kinds of words you’re looking at and what you’re doing with them.

    • Photo: Hannah Speed

      Hannah Speed answered on 3 Jul 2020:


      It’s like asking “does speaking English every day ever get tedious or boring”. It would if I could only say 5 sentences. Or if someone asked me the same question every day. I guess that’s why people often find it boring at school.
      It’s a tool that helps me solve problems. I can check if bridges are safe, if we’re on time on a programme, I can compare risk levels. Then I can use the maths with computers to make diagrams which show, at a glance, what would need loads of words to say.

    • Photo: Arick Shao

      Arick Shao answered on 7 Jul 2020:


      One of the biggest misconceptions about maths is that it is mainly about arithmetic and calculations with numbers (which would get boring very quickly). This couldn’t be further from the truth.

      In maths, we deal not only with numbers, but with many other objects – symbols, patterns, shapes. But, even in the case of numbers, there are plenty of very interesting things to discover about them.

      Our main task is to understand something (why an equation is true, etc.) and then to find useful things to do with it. Doing calculations and “looking at numbers” is only a means to these much more interesting ends!

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