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Is reading math like reading music?

  1. Aug 25, 2011 #1
    I am about to go back to school and need to retake just a ton of math that I completely forget. If I had to guess I'd assume ill even need algebra 1 again. So im thinking about this on the way home from work last night and had a thought.

    I play drums. I, due to living in a condo for 6 years, took a 6 year break from playing. Well, even with that long break after a month or so of practice I was able to sight read music again. Now, if math is a language (written music is absolutely a language, you read it and it tells you what to do), when Physicists look at equations and formulas is it akin to reading a piece of music?

    I guess what im really asking is when someone proficient in mathematics looks at it do they need to go symbol by symbol, actively thinking about each step or can it be read similar to a piece of sheet music, where your reading whole bars and measures at once and translating that information into sound?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 25, 2011 #2
    Music as a language is designed for the exact purpose of "sight reading." If you think about it, it becomes intuitive. At a certain point, you sort of have a feeling of what the next notes are going to be before you read them. Math doesn't work like that.
  4. Aug 25, 2011 #3


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    Completely not!
  5. Aug 25, 2011 #4
    Well thank you. I guess it was my misperception that people proficient with math would have an easier time getting through it. Example being algebra....If I had to manipulate an equation even a rudimentary one at this point it would take me a decent bit of time to remember to use all of the rules i would need to get a correct answer. It seem that from my perception, being lucky enough to talk to a few people with advanced degrees in math and physics, they have an ability to know right where they need to go with an equation. No guessing and getting anywhere near as many wrong answers as i would before they got it right.

    But, I am also inclined to believe that thats a matter of practice. To get back in shape to play proficiently as I could before my forced lay off meant a minimum of 4 hours of practice a day 7 days a week. I suppose after several decades working with the rules of math thats enough practice to know what needs to be done and when.
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