TEDxAmherst: The Beauty of Mathematics


Sophia Lauer

Dr. Jim Henle giving a TED talk at the TEDxAmherst conference.

Elena Naze, Chief Editor

Math is not something that many people think of as “beautiful”, but during a TED talk given at TEDxAmherst on Saturday a presenter attempted to change that.

Dr. Jim Henle, a former math professor at Smith University, opened his talk with 3 phrases: “Mathematics are beautiful”, “You are beautiful”, and “Nothing else matters”.

Objectively, most people are told that if they don’t like math, they should just keep practicing and once they improve, they’ll learn to love math.

However, Dr. Henle didn’t think the same. Presenting in the “Y= Perspective” section of the day, he explained that if you hate math, maybe you just haven’t found the right math for you. Detailing stories of his students at Smith, a liberal arts college, he explained how he told them to just go out and look for math. Many of them designed games, puzzles, and magic tricks. All of which were available to be played by the audience members during a workshop period earlier in the day.

While math games from his stories are a cute anecdote, the biggest and most inspiring part of his talk was his thoughts on what a genius is. Many people wish that they could be intelligent and “smart”.

Dr. Henle said that being a genius isn’t necessarily something someone is born with. Instead, it comes from a love for something. He says that if you fall in love with a part of math and spend your time working on getting better, then you too can become a genius.

Now, even if you don’t have a series passion for math, this concept can still be applied to other parts of life. You want to be a musical genius? A history wiz? Find something about it you can fall in love with, and the “genius” will follow.

To find out more about Dr. Jim Henle’s TED talk, his conversation and all the other TEDxAmherst talks will be posted on the TEDx Youtube channel next month.