Why Does Mathematical Beauty Matter?

April 21, 2017 Francis Finch

Continuing our series commemorating Mathematics and Statistics Awareness month, we look at why the beauty of math matters.

architecture.jpgEuler’s identity, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Fibonacci sequences, the Golden Ratio - why is it important to acknowledge and promote the aesthetic value of these iconic numbers, formulas and theorems?

After all, practitioners no doubt already appreciate their mathematical elegance, so isn’t this simply preaching to the choir? For many mathematicians, particularly those tasked with encouraging new generations of students to pursue the subject, the answers to these questions are usually more practical than abstract. Namely, the beauty of mathematics can make a challenging discipline more acc essible and engaging for young people.

Whether it’s unique number patterns, the existence of key formulae in nature or the intriguing links between mathematics and famous masterpieces, educators should utilize every tool at their disposal to optimize student engagement. Annual international conferences such as the Bridges: Mathematical Connections in Art, Music and Science event highlight the interdisciplinary opportunities that exist between the various fields in an effort to build interest in mathematics as a creative, aesthetic pursuit. This approach can breathe new life into mathematics in the classroom by evoking
curiosity in students and showing how important the subject is when it comes to understanding the world - and universe - around us.

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, there is a beauty in numbers, equations and shapes that mathematicians instinctively understand. Only recently, however, have researchers shown that beautiful mathematics evokes the same pleasure response in the brain as breathtaking pieces of art or stunning musical compositions. While we are perhaps only now beginning to
accurately quantify the discipline’s aesthetic value, the presence of key mathematical concepts has been noted in nature and replicated in art throughout history. Recognizing and celebrating this beauty is not only an eye-opening experience but also a potential method of unlocking some of the wonders of mathematics for the next generation of mathematicians.

Information featured in this series of posts celebrating mathematics has been extracted from a dedicated eBook: The Beauty of Numbers, which is free to download here.

Why not test your knowledge on famous mathematicians by taking part in our fun quiz.

Image credit: Kamil Krawcyzk/Istockphoto

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