There are 2 types of people; those who like Mathematics and those who do not. Some have to seek the help of math tuition teachers and attend extra remedial classes in school to keep up with the rest. It seems as though liking Maths is an innate characteristic. Rarely do people grow to like or hate Mathematics.
However, to be a mathematical genius is a different thing altogether. Euler, Pythagoras, Ramanujan, and Fibonacci are all famous mathematical geniuses that come to our minds. Some of them, like Ramanujan, never went through any formal training in Mathematics and were self-taught which is mind-blowing to the rest of us.
In what way did their brains differ from us? What qualities did they possess that made them mathematical geniuses and us as…. “Us”.
What is Mathematics?
To understand the reason behind all this, we first need to properly define what Mathematics is. Mathematics is the science of numbers, quantity and space either as abstract concepts in pure Mathematics or applied in other things such as physics.
The mathematical geniuses we have mentioned are all pure Mathematicians and thus we will focus on this definition. Pure mathematics can be broken down into mainly 5 fundamental concepts: Natural numbers (1,2,3,…), unknown (x, y, z,…), postulate, function and group. Here are a few characteristics that almost all mathematical geniuses share.
Firstly, these geniuses have a good knowledge of number facts and the number system. This falls under the natural numbers part of Mathematics. On a simple level, these geniuses would have found relations within numbers, found patterns, remembered numbers using their characteristics, and so on a daily basis.
They will make such numerical connections quickly and frequently from the surroundings they observe. Having this pattern recognition and memory is the basis for them in the early stages of their life. As they become more proficient in their field, the concept of number theory comes into play.
Although it may sound complicated, it is still pattern recognition of numbers, inclusive of the 4 basic operations of mathematics of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Some of them will be able to just look at a number and name its prime factors while others will be able to form complicated relations with different numbers based on number theory concepts.
THE CONSTANT SEARCH
Secondly, they will be in constant search of solutions. This may be applicable for other subjects but is absolutely necessary for Maths. Maths is all about creating new questions and problems and answering them so as to obtain a greater understanding. Mathematicians would go weeks, months and even years just trying to find a solution for 1 problem.
British Mathematician Andrew Wiles had recently made a breakthrough in maths by proving Fermat’s last theorem which has been mysterious for centuries.
Fermat’s last theorem was originally conjectured Fermat that did not contain proof and it was left as an open question to the mathematics society to try and prove it. Andrew Wiles spent 6 years on the problem, finally achieving his breakthrough and publishing his proof. This amount of dedication and thirst for answers defines a genius.
Thirdly, many of these geniuses have an intuition for what a certain concept or the answer to a problem may be that others may not have. One great example of this is Ramanujan. Ramanujan had no formal training in mathematics but was able to form new relations and new formulas that were all mind-blowing to the Mathematicians at Cambridge university.
In mathematics, it is important to have proof to convince others that a certain property is true. Although Ramanujan did not produce proof initially due to his lack of training, he was able to think of thousands of new properties that no typical mathematician would have ever thought about in their lifetime. This unexplainable intuition for solving certain problems is a common characteristic among these geniuses!