Can a Mathematician be Bad at Arithmetic?

I have a favor to ask on behalf of the mathematical society! Please, stop asking math folks to do calculations for you. It becomes annoying when people meet me and find out that I’m a math person; they directly say:

Honestly, I don’t know. If you give me a pen and paper, I can answer it for you. That isn’t impressive anymore. You can make those calculations by using your phone. Unfortunately, I am not a calculator. Calculators have been doing calculations far better than mathematicians for tens of years. You can not blame me for that because I am not doing mental math exercises every time. I may be better at arithmetic than some average person on the street.

Reducing entire mathematics to mental arithmetic is insulting to a mathematician. It’s like meeting with Michael Schumacher and asking for a ride home since he was the best racer. And there is one more thing which is worse. Arithmetic mistakes are the most common form of mistakes I make every day. When I make calculations mistake and remind people that I am also human, people always say:

Mathematics is a lot more than arithmetic and mental math. First, people were quantifying their sheep and horses. You can check mental math people out on YouTube. However, the vast majority of math people don’t deal with very much arithmetic. Because mathematics is about logic, analytic, assumptions, space, etc. Mathematics is a miracle to us. It is abstract, and sometimes it is philosophical.

Anyway, please stop assuming that math people are just calculators. However, you can learn so many exciting things when you ask about their field of study. We appreciate that.

So when you come up and meet a math person, please don’t assume that they’re just a calculator. Instead, why don’t you ask them, hey, what’s your field of research, or could you explain to me what it is exactly you do.

Have you always thought math people are just mental calculators?

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