The importance of Mathematics in school is often underrated. In my schooling years I never took the subject seriously, as it never captured my imagination. My friends and I were of the opinion that we would never have any use for it as we had other passions and interests.
A few years later, as I gained a better understanding of life, I realised how gravely wrong I was. I witnessed how maths is ingrained in everyday life and is even unwittingly used by all people, all the time.
A remarkable story of how maths can be used to inspire, as well as save lives is that of master mathematician Alan Turing.
Turing is famous for cracking the undecipherable Enigma Code, during World War2. The Enigma Machine was invented by the Germans during the war to communicate via coded radio messages. The machine used different keys which can be described as different combinations to encode messages. These keys would constantly change.
The Enigma machine could astonishingly create 150 trillion daily settings.
By using ingenuity and his mathematical insight, Turing deciphered the Enigma Code by inventing a machine called “The Bombe”. This machine eroded all unused combinations the Enigma could create. It did this by deciphering common words used by the Germans, such as daily weather reports.
During the war it was strongly believed that the code was unbreakable and that no other machine could break it. However the Germans discounted the greatest machine of all, the human mind. Due to the success of Turing and his fellow code breakers, it was estimated the war was shortened by two years, saving countless lives.
After the war, he turned his attention to one of his other passions, Artificial Intelligence. Turing postulated the computer age and invented the Turing machine which was the first representation of the basic framework of a computer. The machine ran on instructions and printed tape. It read data from the tape, and was also able to respond to commands by writing on that tape.
Turing, possessing a brilliant mind, used maths to save lives and formulated the framework for the computer and internet. He’s life and contribution stands as an example of what mathematics can achieve.
A stronger emphasis should be placed on ensuring school learners are made aware of the importance of maths, and what it can do. Educational departments should also ensure learners receive an adequate maths tutelage.
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