When I think of math, I naturally think of all of the math courses that I have taken at Grand Valley. Throughout all of these different math courses, I have seen that math can look vastly different and has just about an infinite amount of applications. Math, for me, has ranged from how to teach it to children using manipulatives all the way to proving that zero is, in fact, less than one. Throughout the duration of my journey from colored blocks to more abstract applications of mathematics I have found that the best way to describe math is that it is helpful. That's what math is. Given that there are so many different variations of math, I find that it would be unhelpful to list what math is in all of these circumstances. I do, however, find it helpful to talk about the fact that, in light of there being so many different mathematics applications, math is helpful. Why are there so many different types of math? Because there are so many different purposes for it. Math can help me figure out how many more apples I have than Jane, it can help me to calculate the number of years it will take me to pay off my students loans, or it can even help me to figure out the best way to invest my (hypothetical) lottery winnings. So the most basic and fulfilling ways to describe what math is, in my opinion, simply to say that it is helpful. It helps me, it helps you, it helps everyone.
As far as the biggest achievements in math go, I would say that they are:
1. The development of the pythagorean theorem. Well done Pythagoras. (What can't that be used for?!)
2. Calculus. What on earth would we do if we couldn't estimate the volume of objects by slicing them into tiny discs?
3. Matrices can literally be used for more things that I can think of. I'm glad that those are around.
4. Multiplication and division. How else would we divide 35 camels up for some strangers!?
5. Addition and subtraction. We have to pay for things, sometimes at the same time. Without addition and subtraction we would be left wondering how much the cone costs.