How Mathematics is relevant to Liberal Studies
For a Liberal Studies student, Mathematics improves quantitative reasoning, problem solving and decision-making in everyday life, besides developing an appreciation for its real-world applications
In a scene from the film ‘A Beautiful Mind’, protagonist John Nash says to one of his peers: “There could be a mathematical equation for how bad your tie is.” He goes on to write mathematical equations for a group playing touch football, a cluster of pigeons fighting over breadcrumbs, and a woman chasing a man who stole her purse. John Nash was awarded the 1994 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his work.
Florence Nightingale studied Literature, History, Philosophy and Mathematics. Known as the ‘Lady with the Lamp’ for nursing soldiers and attending to their physical and psychological issues, she was also a successful statistician.
Clearly, Mathematics goes way beyond addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The essence of the subject lies in problem-solving through pattern recognition. In Liberal Studies, Mathematics takes up a larger role and uncovers the world’s mysteries and inner workings and shows how a slight shift in perspective can reveal patterns, numbers and formulas as portals to empathy and understanding. Equations in Mathematics can help us tie shoelaces, knots and even develop a notation system for tap dancing, as per researcher, author and mathematician Roger Antonsen. Mathematics is about changing perspectives and, in the process, changing the world.
The integration of Mathematics in Liberal Studies dates to ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras who argued that the cosmos or universe had a mathematical and geometrical harmony. From the time of early 6th century philosopher Boethius, the ‘quadrivium’ referred to the four ‘scientific’ artes of music, arithmetic, geometry and astronomy. The remaining three arts — grammar, logic and rhetoric — were grouped as the trivium after the 9th century, making the seven components of Liberal Studies in the middle-ages.
Mathematics has always been an important part of Liberal Studies. Instead of passively listening to a teacher talk about the subject in front of a lecture hall, Liberal Studies Math aims to intellectually stimulate students, provide cognitive gains, and get students engaged with the subject to solve real-life problems. Such students become analytical thinkers who can come up with novel solutions to problems. They gain a broad understanding of both theoretical and applied Mathematics, as well as proficiency in the use of technology that allows them to easily transfer their knowledge to other fields of study.
Through a broad understanding of the world, the subject empowers and prepares students to deal with complexity and constant change. They learn important communication, problem-solving and collaboration skills while working with a diverse group of people. Education, research, information technology, engineering, finance, accounting, banking, health, statistical analysts, national intelligence, and law, all make use of it.
Mathematics, like all the other diverse classes students take as part of a Liberal Studies curriculum, has applications outside the realm of numbers and measurement. It enables students to apply the concepts to other subjects, giving them even more depth and richness.
In Political Science, the ability to perform basic arithmetic and engage in quantitative reasoning is required to understand statistics, polling averages, sampling bias, and weighted voting systems. Basic Math principles such as exponential growth in investing and calculus are also important in Economics and Business. The Golden Mean is an important concept in art, but it has also been rooted in advanced Mathematics since Pythagoras and Euclid’s time. Everything from music to book design still uses it today.
The application of Mathematics to real-world phenomena, both observed and yet to be observed, is known as Applied Mathematics and Statistics. B.Sc. Applied Mathematics & Statistics program is part of UPES School of Liberal Studies. It will assist students in not only explaining natural and human society outcomes, but also in predicting and influencing them. The students will benefit from the training by being able to collaborate with physical, biological and social scientists. Students will take multiple classes in Economics, Psychology, Literature, Politics and Mathematics courses when they are enrolled in UPES School of Liberal Studies. The theme of meticulous scrutiny and evidence-based analysis is woven throughout all of these courses. The habits of mind student develop while studying Mathematics are actually used in a variety of Liberal Studies courses.
According to Dean of UPES School of Liberal Studies, Dr. Shubhashis Gangopadhyay, “Mathematics is necessary to understand our existence, culture and place in the universe. In many ways, mathematics is more natural and, to a beginner, less complex than language. Unfortunately, the way mathematics is taught has resulted in creating walls between abstraction and reality. UPES School of Liberal Studies will get rid of these walls and make mathematics an exciting and fun subject.”
What can you do with a Liberal Studies Math degree?
From becoming a teacher to market research analyst, database administrator to risk manager, economist to artist who creates work based on mathematical ideas, the career opportunities for a B.Sc. Applied Mathematics & Statistics graduate are limitless.
Mathematics in the Liberal Studies curriculum serves as a foundation for other Science and Arts subjects. It naturally introduces concepts like unity, truth, beauty and causality, and mastery of these concepts is required for mastery of life.