• Question: do you have a algorithm for the maths that you learn?

    Asked by aliyah01 on 16 Jan 2020.
    • Photo: Samantha Durbin

      Samantha Durbin answered on 16 Jan 2020:

      There are loads of really different topics in maths and lots of different links between them so I don’t think it’s possible to have one method for learning everything. You do learn a lot algorithms in some parts of maths though, and a lot of mathematicians spend their time creating algorithms.

    • Photo: Andrew Harrison

      Andrew Harrison answered on 16 Jan 2020: last edited 16 Jan 2020 11:22 am

      The maths I do is about designing and implementing algorithms then using them to solve problems. Most of maths is about applying algorithms.

      The main algorithm I use is the simplex algorithm which is the commonest algorithm at the core solving most optimisation problems. Think of a polygon, like a triangle, square or hexagon, then think of a polyhedron like a tetrahedron, cube or dodecahedron. Polygons are two dimensional, polyhedrons are three dimensional. Now try to imagine a version in 10, 100, 1,000 or 1,000,000 dimensions. That’s how to interpret an optimisation problem, like scheduling trains or supermarket delivery vans. We can prove that the best answer will be at a corner of our multiple dimensional shape. The simplex algorithm finds the best (or optimal) answer by walking around the corners until it finds the best answer.

      Of course there’s much more detail to how the simplex algorithm works and is used, but that’s the gist of it.

    • Photo: Daniel Bearup

      Daniel Bearup answered on 16 Jan 2020: last edited 16 Jan 2020 1:57 pm

      A really interesting question is whether it would be possible to teach a computer to do maths, instead of programming mathematical operations into it. If it were possible to do that, we would have an algorithm (or set of algorithms) capable of learning (and developing) new maths … .