I have a very complex relationship with math. I minored in math but I was really bad at it, and my classmates were regularly running rings around me. My mind was simply not a good fit for it. Then I switched to a computer science major, and everything changed.

But even back then, I realized that math was special. It’s so much more painfully obvious to me now, but it took a while to get there.

You might know the joke about this math student asking their math teacher “Will I ever use this in my life, ever??”.

And the math teacher responding “Your smart and successful classmates will”.

Such a slap in the face.

But there is a lot of truth to that joke. Math teaches you a lot of things that are not directly applicable to the real world, but that is its purpose, and what makes it so important. Sure, you take a math class, don’t understand a word of it, and drop out. Understandable. But how many other people do the same thing as you? 99% of the class? What do you think about this? Don’t you want to be one of these special cases, one that doesn’t give up easily, one that keeps trying when everyone else gave up?

Math is like jogging. There is no sport that requires you to jog at a medium pace for a half hour. But then, why do the best athletes in the world go jogging several times a week?

Because it trains your body and prepares it for bigger challenges. And that’s exactly what math does. It shapes your brain, extends it, challenges it, and prepares it to view the world in abstract ways that very, very, VERY, few people see.

My kids regulary ask me this very same question, whether I use math in my daily life. And my response is unwaveringly “All the time”. I use math when I drive, in traffic, when I read email, when I watch or practice sport, when I look at the layout of my house or whenever I write code. It’s a constant presence.

Math helps me solidify those natural pattern seeking recognition skills that evolutional biology has wired in my brain for tens of thousands of years. I notice things, put them together, draw conclusions, derive decisions.

It’s very hard to explain and put into words, but math is probably the most important thing I ever studied in my entire life, and I can’t wait to learn more of it.