I had honestly never really given this a second thought. Math is always associated with the sciences, so why wouldn’t it be one? However, turns out that this is much more of a controversial issue than I ever realized. I mean, sure I think of math as its own language, but I’ve never identified it as literature or speech–it’s just always been a science. But why? Here is the dictionary’s definition of the word science: the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. I’m going to dissect it and see what conclusions I can draw.
“The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study” If I look at this part first, it is clear to me that the science label fits well with mathematics. It takes active participation and involvement to truly do math. Plugging and chugging numbers into formulas is, I suppose, math, but it’s not the true heart of exploring numbers and patterns and theories. This takes deep thought and actual “doing” to achieve. And as for the systematic study part of this definition, the first thing that comes to my mind is proofs. Sure, proofs give us mathematicians the opportunity to be creative and spread our literary wings, but there is still a systematic approach of sorts we must follow. That is, we can’t just jump from assumption to assumption in order to prove a theorem–we must use only the axioms we know and build upon them to reach the end product. This system is one that is common across all mathematics.
“Study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world” Though math may not focus on explaining why polar bears only live in cold climates, it can tell us why 2 polar bears plus 2 more polar bears is 4 polar bears; why 6 polar bears minus 1 polar bear is 5 polar bears, and so on–mathematical abstractions arises naturally from the physical and natural world. Math helps explain how objects exist in the natural world, and the majority of math has numerous real-life application. Areas such as Algebra and Calculus help us understand things such as the basic rules of motion. Math is an integral part of everyday life, so I find it difficult to think of an argument that supports the idea that math doesn’t deal with the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world.
“Through observation and experiment” In my opinion, this is the most obvious part of math. It’s learning by doing and observing. Noticing patterns and seeking out new ones is what mathematicians love to do. It takes numerous rounds of trial and error, critique and communication to solidify a mathematical conjecture as a theorem, but that’s part of what makes mathematics a science. Observing what people have done in the past and building on these ideas is very similar to what scientists do. Though they aren’t an exact mirror of each other, math possesses all the characteristics of the science definition.