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Language ≥ Math

Welcome back, MTU students! I’m sure you’re all so excited to get to wander the campus again, to gaze adoringly up at the questionably phallic shape of the MEEM and get swept away in the wind vortex of the main paths. It’s a thrilling time of year.

Statistically speaking, you, dear reader, are either a student or professor of one of our wonderful and well-funded STEM programs. This means that you probably work with a fair amount of math. I would even go so far as to wager that you consider math to be rather important. 

Historically speaking, math has been used to describe, communicate, and accurately predict the outcomes of events in the physical world, among other things. Math enables us to properly communicate and predict outcomes of experiments in meaningful ways. Additionally, it builds deeper understandings of why the outcomes are observed. There also exist many branches of mathematics that do not have much, if any, use in the real world and yet still reserve their importance in the education/research division of humanity. We obviously find mathematics and other similar branches of STEM extremely important in order to maintain humanity’s progress towards a prosperous and technologically advanced future, but what would you say if I told you that math isn’t everything? That math cannot, in fact, solve everything? 

Want to calculate the energy usage trends of a city and determine how much power needs to be delivered on an hourly basis? Use math. Want to determine the right amount of solvent needed to fully dissolve a compound? Chemistry can help (which is pretty much just math with pictures). Need to figure out how much weight a bridge can hold before experiencing catastrophic failure? Math the hell out of that. Want to bridge cultural divides in order to formulate a global system of communication that can be agreed upon everywhere? MATH. 


This is what we, in the language department, refer to as a joke. Obviously math cannot solve that last one. 

Language has the capacity to solve problems that math can’t even fully describe. Just to be safe though, we’d like to note that we are referring to math as we know it today and for the foreseeable future. Who knows what might happen down the road. However, at this point in time, language can illuminate and resolve issues that cannot be addressed solely mathematically. There is just an undeniable flexibility to linguistic expression which is impossible to recreate mathematically. 

If you disagree with this, please email us at The Lode. We’d love to debate with you!

4 Responses

  1. It seems clear to me that the authors here have a significant dislike, if not actual hatred, of math.

    Take, for example, their caption for the image of a blackboard, “A near-exact replica of your average MTU blackboard”. I wonder if this is how the authors truly feel – that the average blackboard on campus contains math content typically taught in ninth grade curriculum.

    What strikes me here is the condescending tone of the article. I am not a math student, although like many Tech students it plays its part in my research, yet I find myself deeply offended. I wonder if perhaps some insecurities exist in their minds around math content. If this is the case, there are lots of wonderful resources out there to help the authors overcome their aversion or disdain for the subject and instead, upon mastery, find confidence which may improve their opinion. Additionally, I feel confident the math learning center would be happy to help.

    There does not seem to be any respect afforded to the discipline of math. I suspect the authors would refer concerned readers to their fourth paragraph, but this feels like a hollow attempt at placating the reader rather than reflecting a true understanding of the implications of their words. If the roles in this article were reversed, would the authors feel attacked? This is the emotion they are willing to evoke in another group of people, and I can’t help but feel that this is inappropriate and irresponsible. All people and subjects deserve to be treated with respect, and I see a notable lack of that here. I ask the authors, in their future communications, to work towards a respectful treatment of their subjects.

    I am ashamed on behalf of the authors that they choose to denigrate rather than to engage in a true debate. I urge the authors to try to understand why they needed to write this particular article, and in the future, to consider writing to engage their readers.

    I look forward to more thoughtful articles in the future.

  2. It is ironic that you mention language can solve cultural divides while at the same time, you create a rift out of nowhere.

    It is like saying Cupboards > Sharks, because sharks can’t even Fathom the storage issues which cupboards solve.

    I used to write for the Lode 5 years ago (been here for a while, I’m a PhD student) and the topics and debates used to so much better and well thought out. Please take some time to think before you put up something like this.

  3. To the authors
    I would be one of the graduate students, who doubles as a graduate teaching instructor, that happened upon your article this morning. Your article is incredibly myopic and narrow focused. Yes, I am one of the math creatures you appear to deplore as not being capable of contributing to questions usually viewed as linguistic in nature. However, did you know that math is a highly collaborative field that spans the globe? Have you considered the possibility of math to serve as a common denominator that has woven its way through the advances of every culture? Sounds like quite a unifying and barrier-breaking phenomena to me.

    Developing a global system of communication already has and will continue to necessitate the use of mathematics. You’ve already used a great example to disseminate your work: the internet.

    I’d like to take a moment to remind you, dear language department members, of your fundamental tool you describe with a geometric object: the literary triangle with its ethos, logos, and pathos corners. Language, as you refer to it, is essential for the pathos portion. However, any logos-by its definition-involves some sort of logical (and mathematically sound) thought train. All three elements of the literary triangle are needed for an effective argument. It appears you have a fond love of pathos, but do not care to critically think about the other two.

  4. For a moment I thought I was looking at a Bull article or that this article forgot to include satirical markers.

    I expect better from The Lode.

    Let’s move beyond such tribalisms of what is greater/better and towards supporting and highlighting the individual importance of everything in the world. That is what will truly bridge cultural divides and make the world a far better place than it currently is: one where everyone is supported and encouraged to succeed in the path(s) of their choice.

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