Graeme Madison with Dart's Jacqueline Thomson at the 2021 Minds Inspired Maths Challenge.

Why I like mathematics

By Graeme Madison

As a 2018 Dart High School Scholar and a three-time Minds Inspired Maths Challenge winner, I am drawn to and enjoy mathematics.

When I first started school, I soon realised I got far more enjoyment from tackling tasks where solutions were either correct or incorrect than from arts and crafts projects.

It was satisfying to learn how you could remove subjectivity through mathematical modelling, enabling us to make decisions on a rational basis and find an optimal solution that is as efficient and effective as possible.

Over the past year, one particular use of mathematical modelling has become infamous: tracking and predicting the development of a pandemic. Models are being used to evaluate the effectiveness of proposed measures to reduce transmission, predict which strains will become more prevalent in the future and determine how to allocate limited medical resources to where they are most needed.

However, mathematical modelling is useful for many investigations, whether they be financial, physical or biological. Mathematical modelling can be used as a way of predicting everything from what people will buy to the extent of sea level increases due to global warming in the next decade.

Modelling the structure of mines has been used to predict the risk of roof collapse, improving safety for miners. For some projects, costs are so prohibitive that a trial and error approach is not feasible. Space launches, for example, rely on modelling to have the best chance of success the first time because a single failure is a major setback. Through mathematical modelling, we can build a better understanding of the world around us.

An important part of my journey with maths has been the Minds Inspired Maths Challenge, an annual competition in which students from various Cayman Islands' high schools come together to compete. The day includes a solo event and a team challenge where students are placed into groups of three with each member from a different school. I found the team competition particularly interesting as I believe working in a team with people I have not chosen myself provides an insight into how I might solve problems in a work environment in the future. When a manager assigns a project to a team, he is not expecting everyone to sit down separately and work it out for themselves, but for them to complete the task efficiently through collaboration.

The Maths Challenge is a highly competitive event, yet the atmosphere is friendly, entertaining and it also comes with free pizza.

I have participated in the challenge for the past five years and look forward to it again next year.

This article originally appeared in the April 2021 issue of the Camana Bay Times.

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