Most mathematicians (people who
actually work in the field of mathematics) are not mathematicians. They are teachers, professors, statisticians,
actuaries, accountants, topologists, algebraists, geometers, engineers,
etc. They use mathematics in their work,
but not the entire field of mathematics.
They are specialists with the field of mathematics. Mathematics itself is really too broad a
field for any one person to be an expert in all of it.

I used to call myself a “Free Range
Mathematician” to describe what I did in mathematics. I was free to wander about in the field of
mathematics to partake in its delicacies as I wanted, and not to wander into
other fields of mathematics that I did not enjoy.

But that is not how it started. I started just like everyone else: having to
learn basic arithmetic in elementary school, and expanding into geometry,
algebra, trigonometry and calculus in high school. I eventually went to college and studied
engineering. I would not use the term
“math nerd” or “mathematical badass” to describe myself back then. I could do enough math to get through my
classes, but I would not say that I enjoyed it.
It just did not have anything that really caught my attention.

I really think that math in general is
not taught in an interesting way. It is
almost always taught in a manner to give you enough mathematical skill to move
on to the next class, or to do a certain job – but all the fun stuff was taken
out. (It’s kind of like the cafeteria
food – before they served it they ran it through a machine to remove the
flavor. I doubt if that is really true,
but many people swear by it.).

Even when I was a school teacher I
tried some stuff to make math classes more interesting – but I still had to
spend most of our time teaching mathematics that few of us find “inspiring”.

I spend my time in mathematics much
more efficiently now. I don’t waste time
of mathematics that I don’t enjoy, and don’t need.

Now I spend most of my time studying
recreational mathematics (wait! I’ve
already heard all the jokes about how there is no such thing as recreational
mathematics – it’s just an oxymoron.) It
is mathematical for sure, and some people (including myself) find it very
recreational.

Now I describe myself as a
Mathematologist – someone who studies mathematics and everything related to
mathematics such as: the history of mathematics, the tools of mathematics, the
psychology of mathematics, mathematical music, mathematical poetry,
mathematical humor, the relationship between mathematics and religion,
mathematics and literature, mathematics and … well … everything.

More specifically (since nobody can
know everything about mathematics, they also can’t no everything about
everything related to mathematics) I now use the term “Recreational
Mathematologist”.

(You may not be familiar with the term
“mathematologist”, and you may have problems finding it in the dictionary. Don’t worry.
I made the word up, so it means whatever I want it to mean. That’s not a big deal – all words are made up
by somebody.)

David

I had dream last night that I found a book in my old high school called "mathematology" apparently its what they will be teaching kids in the future. Very weird. Never heard the word before I read your post today.

ReplyDelete