Monday, August 27, 2018

Mathematics and Life: A Speech



On August 27, 2018, I was invited by the Millennium School, Noida to their investiture ceremony. I have previously taught mathematics to Class 11 students in another campus of the school. At that time, I instituted a "Mathguru Prize" for one or two students who did well in mathematics in Grade 10. (The first winner was my student, Ayush Tripathi, who was in the first graduating batch of the school). Every year I buy some books to be given to the winner, with a copy for the school library. 

Here is a speech I gave at the occasion (with some editing). 

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I am a mathematician, so I speak here only in terms of mathematics. Today we will be awarding the Mathguru prize to two very bright students. The first thing I wish to tell you is something they know very well.

To get 100% in math, you have to do two things. 
  1. Solve all the problems in the book
  2. Write the solutions in a way that others can understand it. Even you should be able to understand what you have written if you read the solution after 6 months. 
The second thing I wish to tell you is something which Professor Littlewood said. Littlewood was a famous mathematician, who played a big part in Ramanujan's life. He said that if you are trying to solve a really hard problem, then you may not make much progress in a year or two. But you will certainly make a lot of progress in 10 years or so.

Keep this in mind when choosing problems to solve.  Know that even if the problem is very tough, if you keep at it for years, you will make a lot of progress.

Finally, the third thing I wish to share are some words of George Polya, another famous mathematician. Polya said:
Beauty in mathematics is seeing the truth without effort.
So one must aspire to understand things so well, that we can see the beauty of it without any effort. The same goes when we are presenting something that we have understood. 

I speak in terms of mathematics, but I speak not only of mathematics. Much of what I said is applicable in other domains of life.

Best wishes and good luck to all of you, as you pursue your aspirations.

***

PS. I may have been influenced a bit in the way I phrased certain things by a book I just finished reading for the nth time. The book is called Shibumi, written by Trevanian. 

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