If I had to take a career path other than computers in my past, it would be “math” without a doubt. Probably tried to major in it (I even had a thought to do it even after some years of working in engineering) and be a teacher or in some place where math is needed.
where is math needed? lol, everywhere! (not really, but I just seem to be over curious to take out the math in everything :D)
How about me sharing some of my math journey? haha.
It was early morning 4 or 5 am on the day of math exam in class 6 or 7. I didn’t prepare for the exam the day before as I was sick. Barely had 4 or so hours to board the school van. If you board it, then you are already in the game; you get to listen all the new movie songs and laugh out loudly with friends!
I was panicing (probably crying) and telling that I don’t want to attend the exam that day. That time was different, because my chithi (that’s how we refer mother’s sister in tamil) was visiting us and she noticed my murmurs. She is Math + Electronics person. She said math is very simple. Come let us sit together and learn it together.
On note of how things are now, this relates to a engineer who is in panic due to outage getting help from another engineer who is kind enough to calm them down + help fix the situation.
Ok, back to the story. I started listening to her. She said, “Math is simple. You just need to know what kind of problems are there and know the method to solve each problem”. After that we both sat down to solve one problem in each exercises and I started to grasp the method to identify a problem and match it with a method to solve that problem. Boom, I went to exam that day and got some mark in 60s (may be 68/100, I don’t remember properly)
I was smiling when I got the corrected paper, eventhough that is far very less compared to a lot of people in my class.
I was surprised that I could spent very less time and make the minimal effort to understand things but still score something meaningful. I think I would have scored somewhere the same or less if I had prepared by myself the previous day.
That time was a game changer. Math was fun. It is not like other subjects. It is different. Kids like different things. Well atleast me. I was not very fast at math, but I understood that understanding is way more fun than being fast.
Practicing math is just taking the effort to understand how some problem is solved from that point. I started spending the least amount of time in preparation for math exams compared to others :) Math seemed easy. I didn’t score much, but I always passed.
Another turning point in my math journey is in class 10. I used to study together with my best friend then (and now), Venkat. By the way, to set context here I will need to say that he is very good at math, scores high and class topper.
One or two days before the math exam, we were attending the math coaching class. We were supposed to sit one person per bench and practice math in our rough notes. It is during that session I discovered a very new style of practicing math from him.
I saw this guy take out his rough note, sit calmly and solve every damn problem in the portions (probably half of the book) one by one.
Who would have thought solving all the problems in the portions is possible before the exam? This guy proved to me that it is possible.
Ok first, why is he doing this first? It seems like solving the same types of problem again and again will make you more familiar with it which will eventually lead to speed. This speed inturn gives you the space to solve more problems within the exam time.
Practice, practice and practice. It also helps remember the understanding in mind for much more period of time. He was basically memoizing (one of his favorite computer terminologies :P ) math techniques using practice.
I tried to follow his trails. I sat down calmly. I still could kind of hear the fan sound and feel the heat in that room; also that heavy lunch we packed and came. I started solving one by one. Catching up to the speed :) It was a great feeling. You just focus without any worries or distractions like watching cartoons without any advertisment. I personally remmeber that I have never done something like that before. I think that is called productivity.
Life lesson from here - Looking at what successful people do and trying to mimic; it will get you somewhere! :D
College is the place where I learnt math could be applied. I signed up to help one of my math professors with her research work. I was learning java at that time. One day she contacted me saying that she needs some “programming” help for doing mathematics relating to her paper work.
I said ok - college was the time when I would say “yes” for almost all the opportunities infront of me. I feel good about it now.
What happened next was great. I spent some evenings trying to grasp all the mathematical concepts from her paper work and write a java program that would output a papers of table containing numbers.
She was so happy! Like extremely happy. Because before my help, she did all the calculation on a scientific calculator. Just one caclulation would take one day in that approach. Once we programmed out the logic and added some
for loop magic into it, we were like doing 1000+ if not 1,00,000+ computations.
She gladly quoted something like “If I spend one day on this math, I would be done with 1 computation. But if you spend I day on this Vishnu, we get like thousands of computations done”.
It was a moment of rejoice for me! I understood the power of computer programming. How it can help mathematicians. At the same time, I was starting to get the inverse relation. How math can help computer programming.
I felt programming to be practical math.
Life has gotten more about computers after that. Not really having/taking the chance to get back at math. The only available literature from me on mathematics could be found here. It just has one post at the time of writing this post. It is about logarithms and its usuage in computer science.
I feel that I currently hit a limit on being ok writing computer programs without revising math.
So I have a portion in mind now. I would like to prepare it, not for any exam but to understand how computers work.
I actually started out this blog post hoping to write down those math notes, but it became story time :D