Maths - invented or discovered? Watch

Adjective
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#1
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I'm writing my personal statement, and I'm trying to say something about maths, and why it's good.

But I'm having a hard time ascertaining whether the concept/s of maths is human invention or human discovery. I have a feeling that the deeper you delve into mathematics (i.e. as you go further into abstraction), maths becomes more invention than discovery - but at its simplest - counting, say - it is more discovery than invention, since animals other than humans have at least some idea of differences in quantity.

Your thoughts?
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username51312
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Er i dont think it was invented its just a general name for a group of everyday things humans do
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Charlybob
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Discovered.

That was a big bit of my personal statement. How I found it interesting that it could be a fundamental system in the universe that simplifies so much.

Seemed to work, got accepted by all my choices.
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Oddball
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Difficult one...maths is a sort of tool, isn't it? Tools are invented and discovered.
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SouthernFreerider
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i think that maths is discovered but mathematical techniques and so on are invented.
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Creole
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Even as you move into abstract mathematics, the facts are still already out there, we just don't know them yet. Hence in my mind, it's always a discovery.
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English lit geek
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#7
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I think maths is a human discovery. Like you said, the deeper you dig, the more you find. Solving a new problem doesnt mean you invented the solution, it just means you dug deep enough untill you discovered the answer.
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username51312
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(Original post by Charlybob)

Seemed to work, got accepted by all my choices.
Lol yeah i seen how admission tutors at our uni read them from side it looks like they read only first and last word
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Sk1lLz
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#9
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I would say it's been discovered, because all of these formulas and mathematical thinking is down to results and seeing the relationships between the results, where you may discover a pattern. Like pi for instance.
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henryt
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#10
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Mm. Both. There are very natural aspects to Mathematics, like Geometry - Shape, Measure, and so on. There are also things which can be described Mathematically, like 'chance', which aren't necessarily inherently Mathematical, but we invent methods where we use Mathematics to answer questions and solve problems. I don't think you can go the full hog and say that Maths was definitely one or t'other - I mean, simple Calculus, for instance, is very much a human creation, even if it has some obvious applications in the real world, whereas the concept of Number and Countability I think are inherent and fundamental to the world we live in.

Just my view, anyway Hope that helps!
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Adjective
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I don't know - was the idea that an interval can be split into infinitesimal pieces created by humans, or was it the method of writing it all down that was invented?

It just seems to me that maths is something that any intelligent civilisation would have to have in some form or other in order to be able to advance - whereas an electric razor or similar can be done without :p: - suggesting that maths is 'there', waiting to be used...
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sam-silver
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id say discovered, as inventions are based on whats already discovered, like built on discoveries
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generalebriety
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Oh, god. This is a huge philosophical question that's been going on for thousands of years, and you want the f38ers to answer it? :p:

I say - put very simply - definitions are inventions, theorems are discoveries about those inventions. But of course that's a hideous oversimplification. Some definitions are made with theorems in mind, which makes the definition more of a stepping stone to 'inventing' the theorem (i.e. inventing a place where the theorem can live happily); some definitions certainly are discovered, e.g. differentiation was 'happening' in, say, velocity and acceleration, long before we discovered a way of notating it and working with it. And a lot of it, I would guess, was just pure chance.
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(Original post by generalebriety)
Oh, god. This is a huge philosophical question that's been going on for thousands of years, and you want the f38ers to answer it? :p:
Yes. So you'd all better get cracking! :whip
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royale_sufi
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Well i think it depends on what you define as being invented. Put 2 things together and is that an invention? For example you could argue that if a square was discovered, would putting 2 squares together be an invention or a discovery of a rectangle?
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Adjective
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The interesting thing is that as soon as things are taken into fields of applied maths, I feel much more secure in the use of the terms - I'd say that Einstein discovered relativity, but I would also be confident in saying that he invented the theory of relativity - this is probably because we are no longer in the realm of immutable truths, and we are only using mathematics to describe things, rather than developing mathematics in itself... Though where that puts things like the Feynman path integral, I'm not sure.

...'developed'... that might be the word I'm looking for...
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Daniel Freedman
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(Original post by generalebriety)
Oh, god. This is a huge philosophical question that's been going on for thousands of years, and you want the f38ers to answer it? :p:
f38ers?
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generalebriety
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(Original post by Daniel Freedman)
f38ers?
The maths forum is f38. (Its forum number is 38 - all the forums on here have a number.) So maths forum people are f38ers. :p:
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Daniel Freedman
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(Original post by generalebriety)
The maths forum is f38. (Its forum number is 38 - all the forums on here have a number.) So maths forum people are f38ers. :p:
Ahh, I did not know that.

http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/forumdisplay.php?f=38

As for Adje's question, after much thought I have come to the conclusion that I don't know - my brain is just going round in circles.

I really should start my personal statement.
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benwellsday
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This is interesting, I've never really thought about it. I guess my personal opinion is that it was discovered because no matter what way you do something the maths will always be the same. 1 + 1 will always be 2, at least if you work with those symbols to represent the numbers, and bases etc etc. But the concept is always the same, if you have an object, and another object, then you can have those objects in a group. It gets a bit complex when you try to think of infinitely small objects under a graph, but in my head I like to think that the maths has always existed and we invented how to interpret it. Like we invented the symbols, and what a + does, etc.
Anyway this is way too much effort for a personal statement. Mine was rubbish, I wrote 80% of it drunk.
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