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Math Nerds!?  Department of Mathematics, S.E.

What kind of image do you have of the “Department of Mathematics of the Faculty of Science?”

I can image some replies: “Interesting—a place to learn more about math!” or “Why would a mathematics department be part of the Faculty of Science?” or maybe “A place for math nerds!”

Although most of you probably think about math when hearing the words “Department of Mathematics,” that’s not how it really is. Actually, it’s about logic. My fellow students agree with me on this. Of course, this does not mean classes in which the instructor describes his ideas in a very logical manner, nor does it mean classes in which absolutely no mathematics (or what is commonly perceived as mathematics) is involved. “Then what?” perhaps you are thinking. In the Department of Mathematics, it’s (nearly) all about proofs. In this department, you wouldn’t ask “Proof of what?” The people in this department (including myself) are working on mathematical proofs.

We work on many kinds of proofs. For example, we might be asked to prove the following definite integral starting from the question: “Why is it that Achilles (a mythical Greek hero) would not be able to overtake the turtle in a footrace?”

As probably acknowledged by people that love mathematics, such proof-oriented studies can be quite fascinating in a way not found in high-school math. However, setting out to study mathematics simply on the basis of one’s love for it may not prevent some difficulties from arising. There are people that become discouraged thinking that mathematics is simply too difficult (geniuses excepted). Even people who have loved mathematics from the start and are good at it may find themselves wondering at some point whether they will be able to graduate without any mishaps (again, geniuses excepted!).

So what’s the best way to handle such a difficult situation? One way is to join a circle or participate in club activities. Of course, people who would like to master mathematics may indulge in “logic” to their heart’s content. But for most people, that’s a difficult path to take. I believe that partaking in sports and other activities outside of study can actually increase your motivation toward mathematics. Joining a circle or club also enables you to make more acquaintances and friends from other departments, to release some stress by becoming absorbed in non-study activities, and to simply take a break from your study routine.

Engaging in such activities can therefore provide a good distraction and cheer one up. Compared to high-school mathematics—which is actually just arithmetic—mathematics at the university level includes many problems that are going to feel difficult to new students. Coming up with proofs, which can be quite long, can be very discouraging as I’ve mentioned. Nevertheless, most students do not back down. Their love for mathematics drives them to continue on and give it their best effort despite difficult times. Mathematics at the Department of Mathematics is never easy, but if you like mathematics, I believe you can overcome the difficulties and rough times even if it takes some time to find your way (without having to stay another year). Please stick to it! Welcome to the fascinating world of mathematics!