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A Passion for Mathematics




Those who assert that the mathematical sciences say nothing of the beautiful are in error. The chief forms of beauty are order, commensurabililty and precision.

(Aristotle[384-322BC] cited in Casti, 2001, p.1)

Mention about mathematics to most people and the immediate response is something about their school experiences...But by 1965, going to a party and announcing yourself to be mathematician was to quite likely to trigger a lengthy discussion of fractals, chaos theory and the Santa Fe Institute. By the end of '90s the favoured topic was Fermat's last theorem...But even in 2000, the majority of people still associate mathematics with school, and with nothing else.
(Stewart cited in Mankiewicz, 2000, p. 6)


I have always loved mathematics. Like most people, I have often associated mathematics with the not always interesting mathematics lessons in school. Over the years, I have been learning about mathematics and about computing languages in the hope that such knowledge can help me better understand the "order, commensurability and precision," as Aristotle put it. I valued the experiences of being once the mathematics tutor for a number of intelligent children in Auckland and while in Australia I had some experience in teaching mathematics teachers for improving classroom practice and research.

In the past two years, I have had some free time to read books about the history, philosophy and stories about mathematics and mathematicians. In particular, the biography of Paul Erdös (1913-1996)—the brilliant Hungarian mathematician, who had published more than 1500 papers in his lifetimehas rekindled my passion for mathematics. I also finished on exploring how Visual Basic language can be used to program Excel spreadsheets. As well, I had a close look at why calculus is so important to the development of science. I am surprised that many educated people have never learnt about calculus. Then, while developing this personal website, I revisited C++ and Java programming languages I started to learn 10 years ago at the University of Auckland.

At first, while upgrading my programming knowledge to Java 5.0, I was ambitious to develop some interactive Java applets (small web-based applications) to demonstrate how the computer can help solve problems that took mathematicians a long time to do. For example, I wrote using online resources Java applets to compute any prime numbers up to a million and the values of pi. Soon I noticed that the Internet has a huge collection of free interactive learning resources for lifelong learners who want to know more about mathematics beyond school. Java can also be interesting for children to learn when they have learnt enough basic mathematics. Particularly interesting is to learn graphics using Java programming to explore different shapes and colours. Such learning can engage children in develping their logical thinking, their imagination and creativity, as well as engender their interest and motivation for learning mathematics, understanding about science and learning in general.

(Written in 2007 and revised several times)


Casti, J. L. (2001). Mathematical mountaintops. New York: Oxford University Press.

Mankiewicz, R. (2000). The story of mathematics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


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