BY NISAR SULTAN LONE
Known as the queen of all sciences, mathematics is a discipline which every human is in need of and talks about. The subject is predominant and ubiquitous, be it launching a satellite in space or constructing rooftop of a house, be it engineering sciences, arts, literature, history, finance or any other human endeavour; the traces of mathematics can been seen everywhere.
Now the question arises what is Mathematics and why is it so important? First looking at the its definition a number of people have come up with different expositions, exemplifications from time to time, some call it as science of numbers while others as science of figures etc.
But the definition I like the most is given in the book of Richard Courant and Herbert Robbins, “What is Mathematics” who define it as: an expression of the human mind reflects the active will, contemplative reason and the desire for aesthetic perfection. Its basic elements are logic and intuition, analysis and construction, generality and individuality.
Though different traditions may emphasize different aspects, it is only the interplay of these antithetic forces and the struggle for their synthesis that constitute the life, usefulness and supreme value of Mathematical science.
Now the question arises, why does mathematics hold such an important and unique place among other subjects? Why it should be the artifact of curriculum? Dwelling deeper into the times of Greek ruling the world in terms of their knowledge, why the genius philosopher Plato wrote on the entry of his academy, “let no one ignorant of mathematics enter”.
Let us take a while and try to ponder over these facts! As per my own view mathematics is a universal language, it mediates, transmits objects, figures or physical quantities with numbers, it concretizes abstraction and more importantly it upholds divinity as Leopold Kronecker say, “God created natural numbers; everything else is man’s handiwork”.
Mathematics provides an effective way of building mental discipline and encourages logical reasoning and mental rigour, it inculcates rationality, logic in reasoning and quality in decision making. In addition, mathematical knowledge plays a crucial role in understanding the contents of other subjects such as science, social studies and even music and art.
Greeks while making the first musical tune used the famous Pythagoras theorem. Mathematics has a transversal nature. If we reflect on the history of curriculum in general, then mathematics (geometry and algebra) were two of the seven liberal arts in Greek as well as in medieval times. This historical role supports the notion that mathematics has provided the mental discipline required for other subjects.
Mathematical literacy which includes basic computation skills, quantitative reasoning, spatial ability etc. is a crucial attribute of individuals living more effective lives as constructive, concerned and reflective citizens.
Mathematics is applied in various fields and disciplines which don’t even look remotely connected with, mathematical concepts and procedures are used to solve problems in science, engineering, economics, literature etc. to vindicate my claim(s) I put forth few examples, the understanding of complex numbers is a prerequisite to learn many concepts in electronics, group theory is used in quantum mechanics, modeling/bio-mathematics is used to diagnose and cure diseases, Fibonacci series is used in poetry and music.
The complexity of problems which occur in other physical phenomena often requires relatively sophisticated mathematical concepts and procedures when compared to the mathematical literacy aforementioned. Precisely, mathematics is a part of our human cultural heritage, and we have a responsibility to develop that heritage.
Now looking at the state of affairs at our place there are ‘n’ number of issues which need to be thought upon but here I would like to mention the following issues which undoubtedly has touched/scratched my skin very deep.
Recently Department of Mathematics, University of Kashmir organized an alumni meet which was attended by a good number of alumni of the department.
During the convention, deliberations took place about the current status of the subject and our role and responsibilities towards it. Some speakers brought the attention of the audience towards the fact that under the new education policy scheme (NEP 2020) the cluster university Srinagar, out the six constituent colleges only one college has offered Mathematics as a major subject.
That was a deep shock and everybody present there was dismayed after learning this. The members of Kashmir Mathematical Society expressed their deep anguish over the state of affairs.
They said the society met/wrote to the varsity higher authorities several times but the people who are at are helm at the varsity didn’t pay any heed and took no cognizance of such grave issue.
It is said, that an institution is strong if its Mathematics department is strong. In this modern age of science and technology the subject is at the verge of extinction if some modus operands are not sought.
Another, very unfortunate tale about the subject is: Institute of Mathematical Sciences was established in the year 2013 and a land of one hundred fifty kanals was allotted to the institute (which is functional since then and is running a five-year integrated programme in mathematics); it has been now has been allotted/ shifted to animal husbandry department.
How lamentable! such an un-natural channeling cannot happen in any other part of the world. Saying least about, it is perversion, moral degradation, and I pity the people who have been directly or indirectly involved in such thinking and doing!
The author teaches Mathematics at Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Srinagar.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.