What is Mathematical Thinking?

Hey there,

What is mathematical thinking? According to Keith Devlin, the founder of the concept, mathematical thinking is a powerful way of thinking – outside the box. One will have a different perception of things in the world. This is not the natural way of thinking but according to Devlin, it could be acquired. This concept mainly focuses on students who have completed high school mathematics and intend to pursue their tertiary studies in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) related subjects. However, according to Devlin again, anyone who would wish to master analytical thinking skills could utilize mathematical thinking.

Allow me to briefly explain what I understand from mathematical thinking in my own point of view. Based on my experience in teaching, I believe that at one point of a time, almost all students experience a transitional process in the way of thinking. Let’s not get into the concept part, but let’s just look at the method of assessment for instance. During high school, students are graded based on their examination. Students are constantly taught to practice solving problems in a mechanical way. In other words, you are just given a way to solve a problem and hence you solve it just the way you were taught. Finally, you are graded based on it.

However, the whole way of grading changes when you enter a college or university. Grades are given based on your coursework and also examinations. Students are required to be part of a team to complete assignments, deadline is a crucial factor, a balance between your assignments and exams is a must for you to score well.

See the point here? This is just an example of how the grading system has “transitioned” from high school to the tertiary level. Now, let’s look at the “thinking ” part. As mentioned earlier, high school teaches you, on how to solve a problem the way you were taught. However, in a college or university, you are required or forced to literally think outside the box to solve a problem. Most students, find this a HUGE transition. In fact, I’ve had many of my students, calling for help because they were not able to cope up with this “Tertiary Shock Wave”.

In actual fact, the transition is not a scary thing by all means, all we need  to do is change the way we think. The system is designed as such because we need to have higher order thinking skills as this increases the capacity of learning. Due to the way that you’ve been trained to think in high school, you will be able to grasp new skills easily. It all depends on the way you perceive things.

Now, how can mathematical thinking help you in this aspect? Mathematical thinking will help you on how to “think” the right way when given a problem to solve.  It may sound a little too plain when I say it in this manner, but when you dig deep inside, not being able to think outside the box is the root cause to the “Tertiary Shock Wave” mentioned earlier.

Can’t wait to find out more? Click on the image below 

Coursera offers this course called Introduction to Mathematical Thinking by Stanford University. The course will be taught by none other than Dr. Keith Devlin himself. Currently, this course has a 4.8 star user ratings. You will be given an electronic certificate upon completion. The course schedule is quite flexible wherein you are required to earn your electronic certificate within 180 days upon enrollment. This is definitely good news for those with a hectic schedule. The best part is there is financial aid for those who qualify!!

In order to obtain further details, do click on the image below

This course will definitely help you in thinking analytically regardless of the field that you’re in.


To your success,

Dr. Veena

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4 thoughts on “What is Mathematical Thinking?”

  1. Very interesting topic Dr Veena. Personally i scraped through my tertiary mathematics based on my high school mind set. Even in my working days now, the need for mathematics is ever present and i have in-fact enrolled for the course by Dr Keith. Hope to finish this course with a new outlook and appreciation for mathematics.

  2. I was mathematics student in my 10 standard . But not after that. I was stydent of medical after that. I was very good at maths but this deep thinking and relation of maths with human mind is new and shocking for me.
    So i should enroll here for this study

    1. Hey there, yes many do not realize of such a thing called mathematical thinking. Glad that you’ve decided to enroll. Hope you’ll find it beneficial

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