Interesting Facts About Maths You Didn’t Know

Interesting Facts About Maths You Didn’t Know

Interesting Facts About Maths

Maths is a fascinating subject that is all around us in our daily lives. From the patterns in nature to the technology we use, maths plays a role in so many things. Here are some interesting facts and frequently asked questions about the incredible world of mathematics!

Fascinating Facts

  • Zero was invented around 500 AD in India. Before this, mathematicians struggled without the concept of nothingness that zero represents. The ancient Mayans and Babylonians got around this by leaving a space for zeros in their number systems.
  • Imaginary numbers were once controversial. The concept of imaginary numbers (like the square root of -1) was hotly debated amongst mathematicians when first introduced in the 16th century. Some mathematicians considered these numbers ‘fake’ or meaningless, but today imaginary numbers are essential in subjects like physics and engineering.
  • Pi goes on forever. The ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter is known as pi (π). Pi is an irrational number, meaning its decimal places go on for infinity without a repeating pattern. Pi has been calculated to over 22 trillion decimal places accurately.
  • There are more possible games of chess than atoms in the observable universe. The number of legal chess positions is around 10^120. In comparison, the number of atoms in the observable universe is estimated to be around 10^80. The possibilities in chess are truly astronomical!
  • Different shapes have different formulas to calculate their areas. For example, the area of a rectangle is length x width. Meanwhile, the area of a circle is πr^2. These formulas need to be learnt, but make it much easier to find the areas of shapes rather than measuring or counting every unit.
  • Math is very visual. Although math is often seen as a list of rules and formulas, it is very visual at its core. Geometric shapes, graphs, spirals, fractals and knots are all examples of the visual nature of mathematics. Mathematical concepts are often best understood visually before manipulating the formulas.
  • There are unsolved problems in maths. Some math problems remain unsolved after hundreds of years. These include the Riemann hypothesis, the Collatz conjecture, the Goldbach conjecture, the twin prime conjecture, and more. These problems remain mysteries in the mathematical world, with a million dollar prize on offer to solve some.
  • You can’t cubed root most numbers easily. While you can easily square numbers, cubing numbers is trickier. For example, cubed rooting 64 is straightforward – the answer is 4. But cubed rooting 66 has an unending decimal answer of 3.385890… Most cubed roots cannot be written simply.
  • The equals sign was invented in 1557 by Welsh mathematician Robert Recorde. He chose parallel lines for the equals sign because “no two things can be more equal”. Before this, mathematicians would write phrases like “makes 1000” instead of using symbolic notation.
  • Euler’s number e is used across maths. The number e (2.71828…) arises from compound interest calculations, many geometric measurements, probabilities, and more. It connects to many areas of mathematics despite being a simple irrational number.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is maths important in everyday life?

Maths is essential for many daily tasks. It helps with managing money, cooking, travelling, telling the time, and more. Concepts like addition, percentages, measurements, and fractions are used regularly by most people. Advanced maths also powers technology, science, economics, and other vital fields today.

Do you have to be good at maths for most jobs?

Most jobs use basic maths principles. However, many roles beyond basic retail, service or labour jobs require a solid grasp of mathematical skills. Areas like finance, accounting, banking, data analysis, engineering, sciences, and information technology rely heavily on maths. Having strong numeracy skills opens up your career potential significantly.

What is the most famous mathematical equation?

E=mc^2 is likely the most famous mathematical equation. Published by Albert Einstein in 1905, it shows that energy (E) equals mass (m) times the speed of light (c) squared. This elegant formula revealed the large amounts of energy hidden inside matter, and allowed the development of nuclear power through conversions between mass and energy.

Who are considered the greatest mathematicians of all time?

Some of the greatest mathematicians include Euclid, Leonhard Euler, Carl Gauss, David Hilbert, Emmy Noether, John von Neumann, Alan Turing, and Terence Tao. Historical greats like Euclid and Euler established many theorems still used today. Modern mathematicians continue pushing the boundaries of mathematical research across many fields.

What unsolved problems exist in mathematics?

Some of the most famous unsolved math problems include the Riemann hypothesis, the Collatz conjecture, the P vs NP problem, the Navier-Stokes equations, the Goldbach conjecture, the twin prime conjecture, and the Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture. Solving these deep mathematical mysteries remains the goal of many mathematicians today.

Is maths discovered or invented?

This philosophical question has been debated for centuries. Those believing maths is discovered point to mathematical truths existing without humans, and us discovering relationships like pi. Those believing maths is invented note that numeric systems and notation are human-created tools to understand abstract concepts that may not exist tangibly. Overall, there are good points on both sides of the argument.

Are there patterns in prime numbers?

Prime numbers seem randomly distributed, but do follow some patterns. For example, primes end in 1, 3, 7, or 9; there are infinitely many twin prime pairs like 5 and 7; and primes can be found via sieve methods. However, overall the distribution of primes across the number line appears quite random, and predicting primes is notoriously difficult.

How is maths used in art and nature?

Maths is integral to many natural and artistic patterns. The Fibonacci sequence and ‘golden ratio’ appear in flower petals, pinecones, and spiral galaxies. Perspective, shapes, symmetries, ratios and fractal patterns feature heavily in visual arts. Music also contains many mathematical patterns governing rythym, harmonies, and structure. Maths and art are deeply intertwined.

Who are some great female mathematicians?

While mathematics was historically dominated by men, many women have made seminal advances. Some influential female mathematicians include Ada Lovelace, Emmy Noether, Sophie Germain, Florence Nightingale, Grace Hopper, Karen Uhlenbeck, Maryam Mirzakhani, Katherine Johnson and more. Many faced barriers yet persisted to open doors for women in mathematics.

And those are some of the most fascinating facts and frequently asked questions about the diverse world of mathematics! Maths touches so much of our lives in myriad ways, across science, nature, technology and day to day existence. Understanding and appreciating the role of mathematics leads to discoveries that continue to change our world.


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