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Mathematics as a Universal Language

TOK Chosen Title: Can mathematics be characterized as a universal language?

Mathematics talks all about numbers, quantity, patterns and all the other ideas that connects to the aforementioned words. Mathematics can be considered as one of the broadest subjects wherein most of what we can see, hear and feel. Most mathematicians can relate math to almost everything. Math is based on facts and theorems relying heavily on proving and logic. Thus, Math is sometimes considered as objective and one of the most reliable sources of knowledge. Perhaps because of this, Math may be considered a universal language.


Mathematics rely heavily on facts and logic. There are concepts in Math called theorems and postulates that are the most basic parts of Math. These are the stepping stones that prove everything else. Throughout the years, mathematicians try to prove and reprove all the theorems and postulates generated in Math. All the possible methods are used to prove something concluded. Mathematics is one that is accepted when it is true beyond reasonable doubt. As long as there is any uncertainty, these will not be accepted in the Mathematics community.


Mathematics also give one end answer. For every one added to another one, the sum will always be a two. There is no other answer. No matter how much one tries to contest, two would be the final and undisputed answer. Because of all the theorems and postulates behind every single conclusion in Math, and proving that it is true without any doubt, Mathematics becomes universal throughout every language. Note that the world and everything around it moves in patterns. For example, every living animal lives through inhaling and exhaling. The sun always rises in the east and sets in the west. There is no other way. If however there is any contradiction, then immediately it is not something used in math.


Math is something known to man worldwide. Where ever the country, whenever the era or time, Math has already been used. Therefore, anywhere around the world, people may draw out contradictions. Therefore since Math is accepted only when there is no more contradictions, then Mathematics is considered universal and the language that everyone has the ability to understand.


However, there are certain parts of Math worth questioning. Note that these theorems that are the foundations of all the other facts drawn and concluded in Mathematics cannot be said to be one hundred percent correct. If the very basis of all theorem, which has proven all the other theorems right, is wrong, then does this not mean that everything else in Math that fall under this category is questionable and may be wrong?


Language alone already creates some biases. If a fact is written in English, then there is already a bias to those who are not English or who cannot speak nor understand English. Sometimes, translating these words into one’s language may already create changes from the interpretation of the translator who may be limited by his capabilities or perhaps the language wherein the word is interpreted to who may not know or have the proper word on behalf of this math term or theorem’s description. If for a mathematician who is limited by his language and does not understand English properly  or wrongly starts to make conclusions that may make sense according to his interpretation but not according to the true essence of the certain basis, then can it mean that Math is already wrong?


Mathematics may seem like the most objective subject and language today therefore making it the most universal language to man. However, the very basis and structures of Math may be questioned from the very essence of language and thus create doubt with the claim of Mathematics as the universal language. On the other hand, if too much time is spent on trying to prove something that may seem already too obvious, then perhaps the world may also not be able to move forward and improve. Therefore can it be safe to say that the acceptance of certain disputed claims in Mathematics is needed or will these disputed claims be the cause for the objectivity in Mathematics or perhaps the very basis of contradicting the objectivity Mathematics and the universality of this so-called ‘language.’

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