Pakistan To Join A Global Celebration Of Mathematics
Even though everyone learns mathematics at school, it is difficult to define exactly what mathematics is. Clearly numbers, shapes and equations form part of it, but that is only a small part compared to the vast space of mathematical concepts and ideas. The best way to understand what mathematics is and what mathematicians work on – is to do mathematics.
One idea that appears everywhere in mathematics is abstraction. Instead of thinking about particular numbers, shapes, equations or any other objects, mathematicians tend to think about their underlying structures and patterns. This means that the results, called Theorems, are more general and provide deeper insight. Another fundamental idea in mathematics is Proof. Mathematicians can’t just say that an idea is true, or test it in a few cases. They need a rigorous and watertight argument to deduce that it is always true. Maybe this makes mathematics more difficult than other sciences, but it also means that mathematicians can obtain absolute and definitive knowledge – which is impossible in any other discipline.
Mathematics is also the language of the universe, from the electrochemical signals in our brain to the equations of General Relativity which govern the motion of stars and galaxies everywhere in the universe. It is one of humanity’s most noble endeavors to understand the universe we live in, and that would not be possible without mathematics.
To celebrate the beauty and importance of mathematics and its essential role in everyone’s life the International Mathematical Union (IMU) has led the project to have UNESCO proclaim March 14 as the International Day of Mathematics (IDM). On November 26th 2019, the 40th General Conference of UNESCO approved the Proclamation of March 14 (Pi Day) as the International Day of Mathematics (IDM). For IDM, people around the world are invited to celebrate the importance of mathematics through creative activities, fascinated by intriguing public talks and engaged in exciting events.
March 14 is already known as Pi Day and celebrated in many countries around the world. It is named after the important number π, the ratio between the circumference and diameter of a circle and the IDM logo represents the decimals of π 3.14159265358979.
The International Day of Mathematics (IDM) celebration expands Pi Day to include the whole spectrum of mathematics.
Every year a new theme will be announced to flavor the celebration, spark creativity and bring light to connections between mathematics and all sorts of fields, concepts and ideas. The theme for 2020 is “Mathematics is Everywhere”, and the tagline is a famous quote:
“Mathematics is an art of human understanding” — William Thurston.
For the IDM, people all over the world are invited to celebrate. They will be challenged by creative activities, engaged via intriguing public talks and invited to participate in surprising events. More than 75 countries and 150 organizations such as mathematical societies, research institutes, museums, schools and universities are already announcing their celebrations, and a lot more are expected to follow.
Mathematics is used in a large variety of real world applications. The general public applies arithmetic in grocery shopping, financial mathematics is applied in commerce and economics, statistics is used in many fields (e.g., marketing and experimental sciences), number theory is used in information technology and cryptography, surveyors apply trigonometry and operations research techniques are applied to logistics across diverse industries. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning are now transforming the world, for instance through computer vision, automatic translation, autonomous vehicles, etc. Mathematics inspires artists and musicians in symmetries, fractals, elegant curves and surfaces; patterns, scales, and sounds in music.
In fact, promoting knowledge of Mathematics is essential to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The list of applications of mathematics is endless.
The major goals of an International Day of Mathematics are:
1. Improve the understanding of the public, the decision makers and the schools about the importance of mathematics in education.
2. Contribute to capacity building in mathematical and scientific education, with a special focus on girls and children from developing countries.
3. Improve the understanding of the public, the decision makers and the schools about the importance of mathematics as a tool for development and the move to a more prosperous economy.
4. Emphasize the importance of basic research in mathematical sciences as the seed to new breakthroughs in technology and management of the society.
5. Highlight the role of mathematics in the organization of the human civilization, including its economic, financial, health and transport systems, telecommunications and in the search of human wellbeing, etc.
6. Raise awareness on the role of mathematics in fighting disasters, epidemics, emerging diseases and invasive species.
7. Highlight the role of mathematics in moving to a circular economy of sustainability compatible with preservation of biodiversity.
8. Equip the public and the kids with tools to understand the planetary challenges and behave as knowledgeable citizens.
9. Increase the international networking and collaborations in public awareness on mathematics.
10. Increase the access to information, providing a simple way to give citizens a choice in all aspects of their daily life.
For creating awareness about the importance of mathematics in Pakistan as well as in the world, and to celebrate the International Day of Mathematics (IDM), the department of mathematics at COMSATS University Islamabad has taken the leading role in organizing several activities on March 14, 2020, for the mathematics enthusiasts, students and the general public.
The writer Abid Amin Naeem is research scholar at department of Mathematics at COMSATS University Islamabad. He can be reached at [email protected]