This is perhaps the most difficult question to answer in mathematics. What it it?
There is no clear consensus on this and this has been the debate among philosophers and mathematics since this concept was first identified.
The curriculum statement defined mathematics as follows:
Mathematics is a human activity that involves observing, representing and investigating patterns and quantitative relationships in physical and social phenomena and between mathematical objects themselves.
However, seeing mathematics as an activity rather than a fundamental branch of knowledge challenges many.
Mathematics was born at the time that early man started to count, but the question also remains as to whether mathematics existed before anyone learned to count. What do you think?
Early man needed to count animals, and from this developed words to express the numbers we know as one, two, three….and then many. There is evidence that some early cultures did not learn to count beyond three and so did not create words for these numbers.
From the words came the symbols, as the discovery was that “two” actually means anything that we observe in pairs, and as soon as we give this a symbol “2” is has a life of its own, and we can refer to this without having to consider any pairs at all. “2” is now a symbol, and is abstract, with its concrete form being anything that occurs in pairs, such as two eyes, two shows, two hands, etc….
- Mathematics is symbolic : using symbols to represent things, and to represent abstract things as well as concrete things.
- Mathematics is a language : which we can use to explain things more simply than having to write our ideas in detail.
- Mathematics is pure : given that this is the only subject of knowledge which has remained essentially unchanged for thousands of years, so that the geometry of Euclid, some 2400 years ago, is still the basis for the geometry studied today.
Mathematics is a school subject: and perhaps this is the most important definition at this time. Without being concerned about the details of what mathematics it, let us rather explore this and enjoy it.