It Adds Up

Today, we’re going to talk about math. No, don’t stop reading: for one thing, I only said that we’re going to talk about math, not that we’re going to do math, and for another, the whole point of this post is to talk about why it’s important not to allow our own perceptions of our abilities to interfere with our actual capabilities. This post in some ways is a follow-on to my post about the importance of reading, and really both of them could be lumped under the topic of education, but I’m not trying to propose a restructuring of the education system here. Reading and writing, to me, is about conveying information, and math is just another way of doing that. However it is done, mathematically or through words, it’s important that as many of us as possible understand both how to create and consume that information.


Humanity's fascination with numbers can be traced back to the Sumerians, and the ancient language, cuneiform. In some of the species' earliest cities, written communication was invented as a means of keeping track of numbers. Census data, to be specific, which was used to levy taxes on the populace. Aside from showing that both writing, and math, were developed in order to facilitate taxation, this is arguably the start of humanity's fascination with using numbers to explain the world around it. As we developed new mathematics and new techniques for recording information, the unique capabilities of statistics were leverages for wider ranging applications. Geometry, for instance, which oddly enough has the same root word as geography or geology, geo, which means earth, is called geometry because the Egyptians invented it to measure out parcels of land.