How to Fall in Love With Math – Manil Suri


Recently I saw a Tweet by @nytimes of an article by Manil Suri (shown to the left).

This article really makes the point that mathematics is not the same as arithmetic. I know you have all had that conversation where someone finds out you are a mathematician and their first question is “What is 2+2?” Dr. Suri says

As a mathematician, I can attest that my field is really about ideas above anything else. Ideas that inform our existence, that permeate our universe and beyond, that can surprise and enthrall.

In the article, Dr. Suri talks a lot about infinity and its flavorful addition to mathematics. I really like his example of a sequence of regular polygons and what happens when you let n \to \infty. This is a very nice example to help the lay-person understand interesting mathematical concepts.

Another great quote from the article is

Despite what most people suppose, many profound mathematical ideas don’t require advanced skills to appreciate. One can develop a fairly good understanding of the power and elegance of calculus, say, without actually being able to use it to solve scientific or engineering problems.

I think as mathematicians, we often forget that this is the case. I have a renewed goal to help people I meet in the every day world to see the beauty of mathematics and show them that they can understand it. I challenge you to take on this same goal.

I highly recommend reading the article in its entirety at

Dr. Suri’s Facebook gives the following biography:

Manil Suri was born and raised in Bombay (now Mumbai), India. He came to the United States as a student when he was twenty. He lives with his partner in Silver Spring, Maryland, but returns several times to Mumbai.

Suri’s first published fiction in English was “The Seven Circles,” a short story that appeared in The New Yorker on Valentine’s Day, 2000. “The Death of Vishnu,” his first novel, was published in 2001, “The Age of Shiva,” his second, in 2008 and “The City of Devi,” his most recent one, in 2013. These international bestsellers form a trilogy on India, through which he is trying to capture the history, diversity, mythology and culture of the country. He was named by Time magazine as a “Person to Watch” in 2000, and received a Guggenheim Fellowship for fiction in 2004. He has won several literary prizes (including the Barnes and Noble Discover Prize), and his fiction has been translated into twenty-five foreign languages.

In addition to being a writer, Suri is also a mathematician. He obtained his PhD in applied mathematics from Carnegie-Mellon University and is a tenured full professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). His mathematics video, “Taming Infinity” has been watched by thousands of viewers on YouTube, and was exhibited in 2008 at Le Laboratoire, a science-art collaborative museum in Paris.

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