What is math about?


Quick Answer

Math is a field of study that attempts to describe and measure the physical world using models and numbers. Mathematics uses observation, simulation and experimentation as a means of discovering the truth behind natural phenomena, human behavior and social systems.

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Full Answer

Mathematics has been a part of human society since it was developed by the Sumerians. It served as a means of measuring and communicating time, quantity and distance and eventually evolved as societies became more advanced and curious about the nature of the physical world. Important discoveries, such as Einstein's theory of relativity and Isaac Newton's laws of gravity, were based on mathematical formulas and concepts. As a result, math offered science both a "foundation of truth and the standard of certainty," according to Duke University.

Developments in mathematical theory and new methods of abstraction also stimulated the interrelationship between math and science. By the end of the 19th century, theories of algebra, analysis and topology dominated mathematics research and teaching. From a philosophical perspective, mathematics gave people a way of approaching an ideal reality through the mind by using mathematical abstractions about physical reality. For instance, quantum physics is a branch of mathematics that suggests reality only exists when there is an observer; otherwise there is no way to prove that reality exists separately from the mind of the observer.

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