The indisputable power of numbers


Syed Zohaib Rizvi


A few days ago, I saw a hilarious video on a social media platform. The video depicted how a seller easily persuades his customers to purchase three items by offering a discount.

The buyers, without calculating, become very happy at this offer and agree to purchase from the vendor. The shrewd vendor in that video sold those three items at their actual “selling price,” and there wasn’t any discount or price reduction at all. Though the video was amusing, it demonstrated how customers are deceived. I believe one major reason for this is not being on good terms with mathematics.

In Pakistan, while some of us find math intimidating, others are gifted with excellence in this subject. Nevertheless, only a few devote themselves to this subject and realize its significance in our daily lives. Throughout our lives, we cannot ignore math, and we gradually realize that we should have given more time and attention to it earlier. Being good at this subject, therefore, is important for success. Moreover, once we start taking an interest in this subject, we realize how fascinating it is. Some of the many ways to attain excellence in math are to:

It is all about the foundations!

One reason why we tend to find math hard is the fact that we have not properly understood the basics of a topic. An observable fact about math is that if we tend to avoid (or skip) a particular math topic, it will come back later in a more difficult form. Thus, it is always smart to strengthen our foundation in any math topic that we feel we are not good at. Alternatively, we should take it as a challenge to be good at any complex math problem. In today`s age, even businessmen and professionals who struggle in a particular area of math can improve themselves by learning those topics online.

For instance, if someone finds the percentage increase or decrease confusing, he or she needs to “grasp” the very foundation of it. He or she must first understand what percentages are. As one goes into the basics of it, one finds how interesting percentages are. Later, when he or she encounters the formula for the percentage increase or decrease, one should not simply memorize it. Rather, he or she should attempt to learn how it is derived. Then, he or she should master the percentage increase or decrease to perfection by practicing it constantly. This way, the complicated percentages can become easier and more fun at the same time.

Think about it practically!

To be better at anything that we learn, we should understand how that knowledge is applied practically (in the real world). In Pakistan, most of us study either to get good grades or out of fear of not getting them. On the contrary, if we become aware of how our learnings can be applied in practical life, not only will it make the subject (that is being studied) easier, but it will also give us a competitive edge over others.

For instance, many of us have gone through the topic of probability in math. There are two ways to learn it. One way is by simply learning its definition, formulas, and the types of questions (concerning this topic) that can be asked in examinations. The other is to understand how it is applicable in our day-to-day situations (cricket coin toss, dice games). While the former can guarantee us only excellent academic results, the latter can assure our success in the practical world as well. Hence, it is smart to learn things that way. It makes learning enjoyable, long-lasting, and spiritual (in its true spirit).

Solve it mentally!

While machines have undoubtedly reduced human efforts (both mental and physical), it must be admitted that they cannot substitute for the human mind altogether. When it comes to math, computers have made our work easier. However, if we wish to excel by honing our mathematical and analytical skills, we must do those arithmetic operations mentally. Mental calculations are not only impressive to others, but they are also a great form of exercise for one`s own mind. Moreover, our ability to do these calculations mentally reduces our dependence on machines, which themselves are a product of the human mind!

Let’s take any simple arithmetic operation, such as addition, as an example. It takes a few seconds for anyone to add, for instance, 36 to 75 using a calculator. However, someone who knows how to do this operation mentally knows “how it’s done.” Also, unlike a calculator, one also knows “why it`s being done”. In addition to this, by doing this addition mentally, he can master this mental math to perfection. After some practice, he or she can do it even quicker than a calculator can. He or she can also, during the process of these mental calculations, discover any tricks or strategies that can be used to perform math operations (like additions) in a quick manner. This is the competitive advantage one gets by doing the mental math.

Ending remarks

We are surrounded by “numbers” everywhere, and it is advantageous for us to have a strong “grip over” them. Depending on the way we approach it, mathematics can be either extremely arduous or enjoyable. Since it is an important part of our personal as well as professional lives, it should be approached appropriately. We should strive for brilliance in it, and it will yield us great returns in life. Universal and ubiquitous in nature, mathematics deserves our time and efforts. I believe the more we devote ourselves to it, the more its beauty is revealed. In the words of Carl Friedrich Gauss,

“Mathematics is the queen of the sciences.”


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