Everything we know about maths could be wrong

Figure it out: The world mathematics means “that which is learnt” in ancient Greek. © Alamy

What is maths? A maths expert has said that advanced maths is so complicated that no one in the world really understands it. This means that many equations could be wrong.

What’s happening

Professor Kevin Buzzard is an expert in maths. He has studied it for his entire life.

Recently, he said something very surprising. He believes that many famous maths theorems might be wrong because they are so complicated that no one understands them. Instead, mathematicians trust that they are true without checking.

Find out more

Scientists have invented a computer that can check maths problems. It will be able to tell us if some very complicated theories are true, once and for all. This could change how we understand maths.

One day, computers will even be able to create their own mathematical theorems, without humans.

Buzzard thinks that this is a great idea. He believes that maths should be very precise and based on clear evidence, like other sciences.

However, some people think that maths is more creative than that.

A mathematician called G.H. Hardy believed that maths is like art. He said that good mathematicians use their imagination. For him, maths is beautiful like art.

What do you think maths is?

Some say…

It is a science. Science tells us about the world, and we use numbers to describe what we see around us. Most importantly, maths is about proving things with total certainty. This is the job of science.

Others think…

It is art. Maths is all about spotting and creating patterns, just like a painter might do. To mathematicians, the subject is beautiful because it is so simple and pure. All mathematicians need imagination to push the boundaries of maths.

You Decide

  1. Do you like maths? Why or why not?

Activities

  1. Create your own painting or drawing with numbers in it.

Some People Say...

“Mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true.”

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), British philosopher and mathematician

What do you think?

Word Watch

Theorems
An idea you can prove is true by using maths.
Mathematicians
People who study maths.
Sciences
The three main sciences are chemistry, physics and biology.
Creative
Using your imagination to come up with new ideas.
Certainty
Being completely sure about something.

Subjects

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