Eduardo Saenz de Cabezón

Teacher and educator

“Math is useful to understand the world and to understand ourselves”

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We all have a mathematician inside us, which can help with many things. At school, we probably did not get on very well with them, with that inner mathematician, and this is also true for adulthood. Let me tell you, many people have some sort of trauma with their inner mathematician. But why is that mathematician there? They help us to lead a fuller and happier life. In fact, they help and know much more than most people give them credit for. Not only can they count, measure and think logically (which is already quite a lot), but they also help us to see the world in a more human, fulfilling and satisfying way.

Math is behind everything we do in this world. It is at the heart of science and technology. You would have to be quite ignorant to deny that. What does it do for me in my everyday life? It serves no purpose. What's the catch, then? The catch to me seems to be that we only want to study things that we will later use in our profession. Why? We would miss out on almost everything. I am afraid that almost everything that we learn in school is not going to do us any good in our day-to-day lives, we are not going to physically use that knowledge. But the process of learning all of that has shaped us as people, it has opened the world to us, it places us within our tradition. Another virtue of math is that it makes us happier, more fulfilled, and helps us to understand ourselves and the surrounding world. I believe that math is the language through which we read the world. Very few things are more human than math.

"Learning math gives us freedom and makes us harder to manipulate "

I believe that schools need to be more committed to each person's situation. We should be happy when we go to school. Teachers and students should go to school happy. We should be happy because we like what we are learning and find it interesting. What's more, this should be compatible with it being useful in our future lives. The future awaits all of us and, of course, children today are learning for what may come tomorrow. However, the present is also very important.

Math has been taught since the time of ancient Greece and has been a key component of education ever since. But why? There must be something about it for it to be present everywhere. There are three basic reasons why so much time and energy is dedicated to mathematics. One reason is the development of abstract thinking. Knowing how to analyze problems, how to find common traits. Math also forces us to leave our comfort zone in search of things that are slightly beyond our reach. Math is the language of science. Mathematics is present in any scientific approach to any discipline. Another point that tends to get overlooked, not least in schools, is that math is an extremely powerful tool for producing critically minded citizens. The better you are at analyzing situations with the rigor provided by math, the more difficult you are to trick. And also if you know how to read the data, you know how to interpret the arguments. And there is the logic, there is the statistics. Every day there is someone that is trying to manipulate us. If you are backed by the rigor of math and are able to understand that, you are harder to manipulate, you are freer, you are a critical-thinking being.

With a PhD in Mathematics from the University of Rioja, Eduardo Saénz de Cabezón is a professor of Computer Languages and Systems, and founded the group of scientists and researchers “Big Van Científicos sobre Ruedas” (Big Van Scientists on Wheels). He is a researcher in the field of computer algebra.