El Dr. Oscar Adolfo Sánchez Valenzuela y el Dr. Gil Bor invitaron a hacer un ensayo con el título "Por qué me gustan las matemáticas y cuál es la perspectiva que tengo de mi futuro como matemático", o cualquier variación del tema, a los alumnos de la facultad de matemáticas de Guanajuato para participar en el Ross Program, un programa para alumnos brillantes de las preparatorias de los Estados Unidos. Pueden ver la invitación con un clic aquí.
A continuación les presento mi ensayo.
I never have asked myself: "Why do I like mathematics?" Maybe someone has asked me why I liked mathematics and I answered: "I don't know. It isn't difficult". With this essay I will try to discover why do I like mathematics, why does math excite me, why do I want to stay with mathematics all my life.
When I was two or three years old, my parents and my sister (two years older than me) taught me how to read, to write, to add, to subtract, to multiply and to divide. They observed I was so able to learn and they bought me didactic material in order to practice what I knew and to learn more things.
In my house there was always a cultural atmosphere of knowledge. My father has many books (he is a Literature teacher) and his children always have admired him. Because he knows a lot of things. He tried to make sure that his children knew many things about many subjects. I preferred mathematics; perhaps because the drawings in math books were attractive to me. My parents frequently gave their children mental exercises and cunning questions. I remember a problem about a magical tree; its magic was to duplicate money that some person would put in it. But in order to put money in it the person had to pay a fee to a guide each time he put in money; one person put in his money k times, and after k times he didn't have money. The question is: how much money did the person have before he put money in the tree the first time? Also I remember a question my father asked us: "Why doesn't your nose measure twelve inches? In this case your nose would be a foot".
One of the most important things to me is to be able to connect the world to mathematics. My father always said to us: "music is mathematics". I love music and I always have been in agreement with him. I remember he had a book with directions of how to make drawings with tense threads. I loved to be able to make these figures and watch their magical property: how a lot of straight lines seem like a curve. Later, when I went to a differential calculus class, I connected those lines with the concept of a tangent to a curve and the derivative.
In school I easily solved all the problems the teacher asked of us and that fact gave me confidence in myself. When I was in 6th grade at primary school, I participated in "Olimpíada del conocimiento" (Knowledge Olympiad). I did well in the first level, but not well in the second level. But I didn't care, since I liked competitions of knowledge. When I was in seventh grade I was more certain of my pleasure for mathematics, although I didn't see myself as a mathematician in the future. When I was in the eighth grade, I participated in another competition of two levels: "El primer Concurso de Primavera y la Olimpíada de Mayo" (First Spring Competition and May Olympiad). In both I won; the prize was a trip to Guanajuato, Guanajuato paid by the organizer committee. The "first places" went to Guanajuato to meet CIMAT (Centro de investigación en matemáticas). Here the researchers talked to us about a Mathematics career at the Mathematics Faculty and then they showed us the CIMAT building. I fell in love with CIMAT. For the first time I saw myself as a future mathematician.
When I was in the high school, I participated in another competition: XII OMM (Olimpíada Mexicana de Matemáticas, Mexican Mathematics Olympiad) and I was selected to be in the state team (Chiapas) to compete at national level. Before the competition some teachers taught us some things that I didn't know. They asked us problems that seemed so difficult. We thought about the problems a long time. When they showed us the answer we saw that they were relatively easy (not all problems are easy, but most are). But that didn't stop us. On the contrary, that pushed us to think deeply about simple things, otherwise we couldn't solve problems that we had never seen.
During OMM, the organizers invited us to meet CIMAT and to participate in the admission process to come and study Mathematics in the Mathematics School. When I went again to CIMAT, the researchers gave conferences that I liked. I took an exam, and then a researcher interviewed me, and I was accepted in the School.
When I came to study for the mathematics career, I saw that I was in an atmosphere where the others liked what I liked. I felt good in class and I saw that there were a lot of things to learn. At that moment I said to myself: "I am on the right path".
Before I came to the School, the others asked me: "What will you do if you're a mathematician? Will you be a teacher?" I didn't know how to respond. They asked me: "why don't you study architecture? You will earn more money". But I was convinced about studying mathematics. After all mathematics has given me fun, pleasure, pain, anger, relaxation; in short, many feelings that have made my life happy. But the question is there: What will I do after I graduate? What is my future in mathematics? Really nobody knows what his future will be, but everybody ponders this question. During my studies I have seen the wonders of Algebra. I would like to do some postgraduate work in this area, although I also like Analysis, an area I know less about. Also I see CIMAT researchers and I would like to be one of them, to share my knowledge, my discoveries... Once I shared some of the few things I know to my friends in Chiapas and they wanted to participate in OMM. I liked this experience so much and in every class at the School I wish that they could be here. I see myself as an "eternal student" who can teach his knowledge to others. After all if mathematics has given me satisfaction, why not allow others to have those good experiences?
Also there is another thing that bothers me. In Mexico there is a great myth: "school is a place of pain, especially with exact sciences". I would like to be able to work at spreading science among kids in some way that does not seem difficult. Although to make things seem easy, even though they are not, is very difficult. Here is another beautiful part of mathematics.
But come what may about my future as a mathematician, I don't see myself working alone. I want to have a work group like I have now at the school with my friends. It is really good to be able to work comfortably with them. Everything is easier, or at least, funnier.
I feel mathematicians have a spirit that is sometimes good, sometimes bad. When we are given a challenge, we must achieve it or die trying. Rarely do we give up on our purposes. So I have expressed my challenges as a mathematician and am prepared to achieve them.
Homero Renato Gallegos Ruiz