English vs Maths Watch

Poll: Maths vs English
Maths (122)
70.52%
English (51)
29.48%
jmj
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#21
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#21
I agree, English is vital for communication and we can learn a lot about humanity and philosophy. Maths is immensely important and so is English, however I would say English is more important
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Robob
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#22
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#22
But maths, it has been said, is the only truly universal language.
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wanderer
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#23
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#23
Totally meaningless question if you ask me.
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XxJaninexX
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#24
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#24
Without English we would just speak another Language...without maths? The world would fall to bits.
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Dann
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#25
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#25
(Original post by generalebriety)
...not really as 'academic' as maths. :confused: I dunno, I'd be inclined to say maths, but I can't really back it up. English is an amazing subject. But it doesn't seem as 'heavily' academia-based. There's a lot of margin for error, and the distinction between right and wrong answers is a blurry one... I would expect academics to at least agree on simple things...
I took both subjects to A2, so I think I can comment relatively objectively. I love English, but would concede that yes, English can not be seen as pragmatic a subject to take as maths. It is however unfair to refer to English (and I'm presuming we are speaking about lit. here) as not, 'heavly academia-based.' English as far as I can tell must be one of the MOST academic subjects in some respects. Whilst you say it cannot be because there is a lot of margin for error, I think the fact that there is constant scholastic debate over a number of works dating back hundreds and even thousands years of years just displays the academic breadth that English encourages...
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wanderer
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#26
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#26
Thats not a distinction between academic and non-academic subjects, thats the distinction between the sciences and the arts.
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generalebriety
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#27
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#27
My point was that, in English lit for example, I can study both "Death of a Salesman" and "Of Mice and Men" at the same time, and once I've studied both to a certain level, there is very little more that can be done with it. On the other hand, in maths, I can't study calculus until I know what algebra is... and yet once I've studied both to an incredibly high level, which would take years to achieve (considering I've been studying calculus for a year and algebra for several years now and still haven't reached anywhere near the 'top' - although you could even think of it like a tree, the higher you go the more possible branches of algebra/calculus there are), there are obvious mathematical problems that need to be solved that still can't be solved using current methods, and I could research into a very specific topic of algebra to solve this problem, which would open up whole new lines of thought. Obvious example, for those who know about it: Fermat's last theorem. A spin on Pythagoras' theorem, Fermat's last theorem took over 300 years to solve, and yet could be understood by someone of the age of 11... and although it's presented in one line of simple algebra, it took 8 years' constant work by one mathematician (following on from 300 or so years of intermittent work by other great mathematicians) to finally solve it, and involved things a hell of a lot more complicated than that algebra, not to mention some completely different things too.

That's why I think maths is more academic. Compare English lit to history - it's analysis. It's academic in its own way, but things aren't structured - there's nowhere to start, you just dive in at a random point and see where it takes you, and once that's exhausted you dive in somewhere else. Same as in history.

At least, that's my view on it.
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Dann
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#28
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#28
You make a very valid point I'm happy to acknowledge, and yet I can't help but feel that despite this the study of a piece of literature is more dynamic than you make it appear. Far from just 'diving in' the study of literature is a reflection of the times we live in; this is shown perhaps most obviously in the rise and fall of Marxist crit in both His. and Lit. If therefore your classification of Maths as a more 'academic' subject because it is an area which cannot be scholastically exhausted then I would have to argue that by the same token, English Lit. must be considered academic. It is much about coming to understand the relevance of literature to contempary audiences as anything else, and this focus on the present by its very nature makes it an inexhaustible study. The development of gender and postcolonial studies in paticular are relatively new fields which reflect our current interest in these fields. There's more to it then just reaching a certain advanced level like you said, its a constantly evolving study.

Saying this, your argument is persuasive, and I can see how in some respects my response may not be adequate. In comparison to your tree analogy I paint a picture of English that is far more linear, moving from one point to another, and never really branching out (excuse the pun.) I am willing to accept that in this respect, Maths is the more academic subject, but cannot concede that English is so very far from it as you may have made seem.

Cheers for the reply
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wanderer
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#29
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#29
(Original post by generalebriety)
My point was that, in English lit for example, I can study both "Death of a Salesman" and "Of Mice and Men" at the same time, and once I've studied both to a certain level, there is very little more that can be done with it. On the other hand, in maths, I can't study calculus until I know what algebra is... and yet once I've studied both to an incredibly high level, which would take years to achieve (considering I've been studying calculus for a year and algebra for several years now and still haven't reached anywhere near the 'top' - although you could even think of it like a tree, the higher you go the more possible branches of algebra/calculus there are), there are obvious mathematical problems that need to be solved that still can't be solved using current methods, and I could research into a very specific topic of algebra to solve this problem, which would open up whole new lines of thought. Obvious example, for those who know about it: Fermat's last theorem. A spin on Pythagoras' theorem, Fermat's last theorem took over 300 years to solve, and yet could be understood by someone of the age of 11... and although it's presented in one line of simple algebra, it took 8 years' constant work by one mathematician (following on from 300 or so years of intermittent work by other great mathematicians) to finally solve it, and involved things a hell of a lot more complicated than that algebra, not to mention some completely different things too.

That's why I think maths is more academic. Compare English lit to history - it's analysis. It's academic in its own way, but things aren't structured - there's nowhere to start, you just dive in at a random point and see where it takes you, and once that's exhausted you dive in somewhere else. Same as in history.

At least, that's my view on it.
As I said, that doesn't distinguish how academic something is. I think most academics working within the arts would take issue with the idea that you can 'just dive in' anyway - its not a single edifice, like maths can be (ish), but it doesn't require any less specialisation. You realise you could do a PhD on "Death of a Salesman"?
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generalebriety
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#30
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#30
(Original post by Dann)
You make a very valid point I'm happy to acknowledge, and yet I can't help but feel that despite this the study of a piece of literature is more dynamic than you make it appear. Far from just 'diving in' the study of literature is a reflection of the times we live in; this is shown perhaps most obviously in the rise and fall of Marxist crit in both His. and Lit. If therefore your classification of Maths as a more 'academic' subject because it is an area which cannot be scholastically exhausted then I would have to argue that by the same token, English Lit. must be considered academic. It is much about coming to understand the relevance of literature to contempary audiences as anything else, and this focus on the present by its very nature makes it an inexhaustible study. The development of gender and postcolonial studies in paticular are relatively new fields which reflect our current interest in these fields. There's more to it then just reaching a certain advanced level like you said, its a constantly evolving study.
My point (albeit flimsy :p:) was that English lit can essentially be jumped at by anyone. It takes a lot of study to develop a critical eye and the ability to write your thoughts and feelings properly and balance arguments and so on, but you could equally well read the same book and write a (more crap) essay when you're 7. This is because English lit isn't structured - maths is. You can dive in in the middle of English lit, because the middle is all there is - there is no 'start' or 'end' to the course, so there isn't really a 'course', except one laid down by an exam board (which I'm sure you'll agree doesn't constitute true 'academia'). By this, I mean you can't just pick up a book and say "This book is where everyone should start learning. It's the simplest book there is in the whole field of English lit, and you can build upon the knowledge, insight and skills you pick up from it. After that you branch out into these three books, these are the next simplest", and so on. You pick up a random book (normally one that receives high ratings, just so you don't get bored) and read it and analyse it. I couldn't just dive in anywhere in maths without a lot of research. It's that that leads me to think maths is 'more academic' than English, although I'm not saying either is less worthy of credit.

(Back to the maths analogy: I mean you can't dive into maths because you can't add unless you know what numbers mean, you can't use fractions unless you can add, you can't do percentages until you have the concept of a fraction. You can't do algebra until you know what numbers are, even if later on algebra and numbers become fairly separate, because you need that solid foundation in reality to be able to handle abstract concepts that come afterwards. I've never seen an example of this in English lit, but please correct me if I'm wrong - my English lit skills have all been picked up from my teachers ranting on about various books, poems and short stories which weren't really connected at all, because no one book can act as a logical linguistic progression between two other books.)

(Original post by Dann)
Saying this, your argument is persuasive, and I can see how in some respects my response may not be adequate. In comparison to your tree analogy I paint a picture of English that is far more linear, moving from one point to another, and never really branching out (excuse the pun.) I am willing to accept that in this respect, Maths is the more academic subject, but cannot concede that English is so very far from it as you may have made seem.

Cheers for the reply
Hmm... I think I would be repeating myself if I answered to this, so I won't. It's certainly an interesting question though.

(Original post by wanderer)
As I said, that doesn't distinguish how academic something is. I think most academics working within the arts would take issue with the idea that you can 'just dive in' anyway - its not a single edifice, like maths can be (ish), but it doesn't require any less specialisation. You realise you could do a PhD on "Death of a Salesman"?
I never said it wasn't specialised. And your last point is just a reflection of how crap the education system is today. I no more believe you should be allowed to do a PhD on "Death of a Salesman" than I believe you should be able to do one on triangles... there are huge amounts of work that can go into both but it's nowhere near broad enough to constitute a doctorate, in my opinion. :p: Then again, a doctorate is a specialised, research-based degree, and to be honest, if you could find out something new and exciting (even if it was almost pointless to nearly everyone) about triangles, you could do a PhD in it.
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Dhesi
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#31
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#31
(Original post by rpotter)
But maths, it has been said, is the only truly universal language.
Very true. It is true that english is required but we dont actually need it above a certain standard whereas without mathematical advance civilisation would most likely receed as science would no longer develop. Dont think theres much of a case to argue english being more important.
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fuglyduckling
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#32
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#32
(Original post by generalebriety)
Well... maths. We all grow up speaking English, and at A-level, English (language) is just history and psychology, and English lit is the ability to write essays. Both very good subjects, of course... but not really as 'academic' as maths.
Wrong. Academic connotes some form of intellectual creativity and exploration. A-level Maths, and most Maths degrees, is about learning how to do things and then applying these rigid structures to repetitive situations.

At research level, or when you are having to think around the problem rather than being told to 'factorise this equation', you are engaging in something truly academic and perhaps more so than English because Maths - arugably - underpins more essential features of life than does English.

However, there is no set answer to English essay titles: it requires independent thought and analysis. Hence, up till research level, English wins for me!
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generalebriety
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#33
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#33
(Original post by fuglyduckling)
Wrong. Academic connotes some form of intellectual creativity and exploration. A-level Maths, and most Maths degrees, is about learning how to do things and then applying these rigid structures to repetitive situations.

At research level, or when you are having to think around the problem rather than being told to 'factorise this equation', you are engaging in something truly academic and perhaps more so than English because Maths - arugably - underpins more essential features of life than does English.

However, there is no set answer to English essay titles: it requires independent thought and analysis. Hence, up till research level, English wins for me!
You've clearly never looked into a maths degree, or even further maths A-level, in your life. But thank you for your contribution.
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Esquire
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#34
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#34
Stop the press! How about english and maths!!! (it took a mathematician to point out this possibility)
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fuglyduckling
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#35
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#35
(Original post by generalebriety)
You've clearly never looked into a maths degree, or even further maths A-level, in your life. But thank you for your contribution.
Wrong. But thanks for your contribution.

I've spoken with lots of mathmos at university and the level of independent thought that goes into what they do pales in comparison to the English lot.

As for further maths A-level - lol. If you'd said STEP .... you'll see what I mean when you get to university.
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wanderer
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#36
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#36
(Original post by fuglyduckling)
Wrong. But thanks for your contribution.

I've spoken with lots of mathmos at university and the level of independent thought that goes into what they do pales in comparison to the English lot.

As for further maths A-level - lol. If you'd said STEP .... you'll see what I mean when you get to university.
So the repeated cries of "STEP is what university maths is like" are just lies then?
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Gaz031
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#37
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#37
I'll gladly concede that A-Level Mathematics is repretitive (aren't all subjects at A-Level?) but I find you to be rather misinformed about University Mathematics.

I find it rather humorous that you think Mathematics lacks intellectual creativity and exploration, given that the subject possibly makes more use of abstraction and logical reasoning (fundamental concepts necessary for practically any serious thought) than any other.

The level of creativity in a clever proof, argument or conjecture is surely all the more impressive since it is born out of pure thought, rather than simply a comment on reality. Pure Mathematics offers practically an alternate universe for us to create and explore. What could possibly be more creative?

For myself the term academic also brings to mind the need to justify careful conclusions. There is no subject stronger than Mathematics in this respect.

The fact that Mathematics is symbolised in your mind by 'factorise this equation' hardly inspires me with confidence as to the validity and strength of your argument.
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generalebriety
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#38
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#38
(Original post by fuglyduckling)
Wrong. But thanks for your contribution.

I've spoken with lots of mathmos at university and the level of independent thought that goes into what they do pales in comparison to the English lot.

As for further maths A-level - lol. If you'd said STEP .... you'll see what I mean when you get to university.
Well, not being a maths undergraduate or going to Cambridge or Warwick, I assumed you wouldn't know what STEP papers were. Most of my peers don't.

You seem to have the unfortunate misconception, as a lot of non-mathematicians do, that maths is just hard sums. I won't even bother explaining to you... suffice it to say that there is more abstract thought involved in maths than English could sniff at. Can you imagine analysing a book that's not there? Every time a mathematician messes with abstract algebra and whole worlds of other things I haven't even heard of yet, they are essentially looking at things that don't exist in the real world and have no real use in applied maths at all. (Edit: in fact, the difference between pure maths and applied maths is fairly comparable to that between parts of English language and English lit.) And this isn't at research level, I'm talking about STEP papers to first year undergraduate. You seem to have a ridiculous amount of arrogance about your subject compared to mine, whereas I have considered English lit before and you probably haven't done a maths A-level - you've heard it all off people who are good at maths and probably tell you it's all easy because they're good. But unless you've done the research and tried the maths yourself you wouldn't understand. Hell, I'm going to university this time next year and even I don't claim to understand some of the maths I'm on about. :rolleyes:
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wanderer
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#39
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#39
Calm down, generalebriety. It doesn't help your side of the argument (which I'm essentially on) to make unwarranted personal attacks or accuse your opponent of ignorance. From what Fuglyduckling said I'd imagine s/he did do Maths A level, and clearly knows whats STEP is. There's no need to get nasty.
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Kolya
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#40
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#40
I think that it is fair to say that professional Mathematics requires as much, if not more, creativity as being the writer of novels.
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