Friday, October 08, 2021

Raising a Math God


The latest rant from a Tiger Mom complaining that her "Math God" son ended up crying after the first PSLE maths paper raised some eyebrows on my social media feed. 

I think we're a long way from cultivating a love of mathematics and difficult problems, so instead, I want to spend a little time on what the endpoint should be for mathematics training. Of course, having a strong foundation in maths is important to develop money-making skills, but a good intuitive grounding for mathematics should be seen like developing the sensitivities when studying the humanities, you are learning something that can guide you to solve problems you face in daily life. Maths formulas are a great addition to your toolkit of mental models.

The Ten Equations That Rule The World by David Sumpter shows the way and opens with how to use Baye's Theorem and why basic decisions can be enhanced from an understanding of it. Sadly, while the book is a valuable read for me, it does not seem accessible to laypeople, yes those that were emotionally scarred by the PSLE. The chapter on betting, possibly the best read in the book, is on the practical applications of logistics regression.

But I don't want too harsh, the work is beautifully written for a book on maths, but it is a long way from solving Ivan and Helen's issue with coins towards what's discussed in the book. I can barely cope with the chapter on Markov processes even though I really enjoyed it.

If I get to write something so ambitious one day, I would start with the first chapter with a formula that's way easier for layman audiences. 

I'd go with this :

The continuous compounding equation is how we grow wealth, but it does not look like what we normally learn in secondary school where there is a (1+r)^t term that we normally use to calculate compound interest for banking deposit problems. This exponential equation arises occurs when the frequency of the pay-off gets smaller and smaller, from a year to a month to even compounded values every second. So if you find stake a shitcoin for 20% APY but get a few cents every 3 or 4 seconds, this may be a better way to calculate how much you can earn after 5 years.   

Maybe in my financial training next session with Raffles Institution, I should actively teach this version of continuous compounding. If anything the math teacher should be happy that I'd open the first-order differential equation for them. 

I'd also have a novel way to teach this. I'd remind them that their rivals from Barker Road who called them a "lousy school" have the motto, "The best is yet to be".

This equation capture the essence of that motto. Wealthy people understand continuous compounding innately and find ways to collect some dividends, not just every year, but every second if possible. This is done via business ownership where goods can be shipped out every second. But the canny businessman knows that to do better every year, r needs to be positive. 

If r is negative, the motto will become "The worst has yet to come." There will be no hope for a better age.

Then maybe a RI opposition party member can reverse the quip and say "Oh you come from the school of paupers."

The Ten Equations That Rule The World by David Sumpter remains a top read for folks who want to develop a mental toolkit. Almost the same way Gun, Germs and Steel is the opening read for folks who want a grounding on anthropology.

Maybe one day, I'd list the reads for folks who aim to get a basic grounding in every subject. 

But maybe 2-3 readers of this blog will appreciate it.


  1. Math God? More like Exam God lol. And that just leads to Idiot Savants.

    What we are raising is generation upon generation of fragiles and munchkins.

    The main ingredients for success, whether in career, jobs, relationships, family, wealth etc, are AQ & EQ, not IQ.

  2. Hi Chris, yes do keep the book intros coming, some are great reads!