Mathematics and
Civil Society
Dr. P. G. Thomaskutty
Reader in Economics
Mar Ivanios College
Trivandrum, India
Outside the Class-room
The advancement in the areas of Science
and Technology are rapid and rather amazing
All these astounding advancements are
indebted to Mathematics to a great extent
Everyone who is a beneficiary of these
scientific and technological facilities may
have to know a little of Mathematics for its
fruitful and smooth utilization
Hence, Mathematics cannot be considered as
a classroom discipline only
Mathematics is the
Mirror of Civilization
It is rightly said that, ‘Mathematics is the mirror
of civilisation’.
The history of Mathematics portrays the culture
and civilisation of a Civil Society.
A close and careful study of the history will
reveal the fact that ancient civilizations are very
much related to the development of
History of Mathematics is the history of
History of Mathematics reveals that whenever a
society gave due weightage to the knowledge
of Mathematics, it made a tremendous
Mathematics is the
Common Heritage
When Mathematics makes its contribution in
the advancement of science and technology,
society draws huge benefits
Its history presents a very good picture of the
overall development of our civilization
What we possess in the form of Mathematical
knowledge today is the fruit of the combined
efforts of all human beings
Mathematics is the common heritage of
mankind and it is not the exclusive property of
any particular nation, race or country.
Through History
Babylonians possessed the knowledge of multiplication
and division of numbers, taking square and square root of
numbers, finding areas of certain geometrical figures
Egyptian civilization is also owed to Mathematics. Aristotle
says that Mathematics had its birth in Egypt, because
there the priestly class had leisure, needful for its study.
They built pyramids at a very early period.
When we think of Greek civilization, we could not help to
remember the great Mathematicians, like, Thales,
Pythagoras, Plato, Ptolemy, Archimedes, Apollonius,
Pappus, Diophantus, etc.
When we go through history, we can see further the
contributions from Romans, Chinese, Japanese, Arabs
and Indians to Mathematics.
Educational Values of
Practical or Utilitarian Values
Disciplinary Values
Cultural Values
Social Values
Moral Values
Aesthetic Values
Recreational Values
Practical or
Utilitarian Values
A common man can get on sometimes ‘very’
well without learning how to read and write,
but he can never pull on without learning how
to count and calculate.
Any person ignorant of Mathematics will be at
the mercy of others and will be easily
The knowledge of its fundamental processes
and the skill to use them are the preliminary
requirements of human being these days
For Personal Use
Most individual as well as group projects in
life fail for want of sense of calculation.
A person with proper calculations, can
anticipate all the possible handicaps to be
faced and thus can adopt precautionary
An individual is the smallest unit of a Civil
Society. The society can flourish only if the
smallest unit flourishes.
For the Society
In many occupations indirect or direct use of Mathematics is
Many of the projects depend upon Mathematics for their
successful functioning.
It has become the basis of the world’s entire business and
commercial system.
Mathematical illiteracy in the masses is a formidable barrier in
the way of a country’s progress.
One is sometimes misled about the practical value of
Mathematics on account of a feeling that whatever is taught in
higher classes is of little use to live in the society.
The common man seldom uses the knowledge in higher
Mathematics in his later life. But the value of a subject cannot be
measured in this way. The great Napoleon said, ‘the progress
and the improvement of Mathematics are linked to the prosperity
of the state’
Disciplinary Values
The habit of carefully analysing the situation before
decision making could be very helpful in complex life
situations where decision making becomes very
As Mathematics deals with facts, which are accurate
and precise, there is no scope for uncertainty or
vagueness. This makes the mind of the learner more
broad and open. He enjoys a universal acceptance,
without any barriers of countries, languages, climate,
The knowledge of Mathematics helps the members of
the society to organise his ideas more logically and
express his thoughts more accurately and explicitly. It
trains the members not to take things for granted, or
rely on tradition or authority, but rely on reasoning.
Cultural Values
The essence of culture of a Civil Society is in the
mode of living of its members.
The culture reflects how they live, behave, dress, eat,
drink, rear their children, and maintain their social
The mode of living of the members of a society is
greatly determined by the scientific and technological
advancement, which in turn depends upon the
progress and development of Mathematics.
Therefore the changes in modes of living and thereby
the culture has been continuously influenced by the
progress in Mathematics.
Mathematics also helps in the preservation and
transmission of our cultural traditions.
Social Values
Mathematics helps in the proper organisation and
maintenance of a fruitful social structure.
It plays an important role in the proper setting up of
social institutions such as banks, co-operatives,
railways, post offices, insurance companies,
industries, transports, navigation and so on.
Effective business transactions, exports and imports,
trade and commerce and communication cannot take
place without Mathematics.
Thus smooth and orderly functioning of the civil
society is ensured by Mathematics.
Individual and the Society
The success of an individual in a society depends on
how well he is able to become a part of the society
and what contributions he can make towards the
progress of the society and how well he can be
benefited by the society.
Today, our social existence is totally governed by the
scientific and technological knowledge, which can
only be attained by the study of Mathematics.
Mathematical methods and logics are used to
investigate, analyse and draw inferences regarding
the formation of various social laws and their
More over the values acquired through learning
Mathematics will help the individual to adjust himself
and lead a harmonious life in the society.
Moral Values
The study of Mathematics helps an individual
in his character formation in many ways.
It develops in him a proper attitude, as there
is no space for prejudiced feelings, biased
outlook, discrimination and irrational thinking.
It aids him in objective analysis, correct
reasoning, valid conclusions and impartial
These moral values inculcated in the
individual help him to become a successful
member of his society.
Aesthetic Values
Mathematics enriches with its aesthetic appeal.
The elegance and gracefulness of Mathematical
relationships touches our emotions, much like music
and art can reach inside the psyche and make us feel
truly alive.
When we go through the biographies of great
Mathematicians, we see that almost all of them were
attracted to this ‘divine discipline’, by realising its
They were not studying Mathematics, but
worshipping it.
The fineness, the harmony, the symmetry everything
adds its beauty.
Music or art are simply the outcome of this eternal
Recreational Values
Mathematics gives a variety of recreational opportunities to
grown up people as well as children.
Mathematics entertains people. Various puzzles, games, riddles,
etc., of Mathematics, give people recreation and entertainment.
The modern video-computer games are all developed through
proper use of Mathematics.
The significance of this type of recreation is that, this enables
one to develop his imagination, sharpen his intellect and draw
satisfaction to his mind.
The human brain is an organ that improves with exercise. The
study of Mathematics thus gives sufficient exercise to the brain
of an individual.
For the practitioner of Mathematics, the daily joy of untwisting
some strange Mathematical relationship is always entertaining.
Empirical Study
The main objectives of the study were:
to evaluate the impact of Mathematics
learning in individual life; and
to evaluate the impact of Mathematics
learning in social life.
Classification :
Formal Education in Mathematics
Classification :
Primary Occupation
Classification : Opinion on Values
of Mathematics
Even though a good percentage of people
are unaware of the relation between Civil
Society and Mathematics, it does not mean
that the relation is insignificant.
 The structure and functioning of the Society is
highly depending on Mathematics. But the
only thing is that the members of the Society,
irrespective of their education level or
occupation is highly ignorant towards this
 In this world of technological savvy, we
cannot think of a Mathematics-free society.
What can we do…
 We
should see and admit the goodness
in Mathematics.
 No doubt, this will make our society
progress with enormous power.
 So there should be a move from the
part of Mathematics Teachers and
Academicians to make the public aware
of the values of learning Mathematics,
especially its Social values.
Anice James, Teaching of Mathematics, Neelkamal
Publications, Hyderabad, India, 2005
Bell, E. T., The Development of Mathematics,
McGraw Hill, New York, 1940
Clawson, C. C., Mathematical Sorcery, Viva Books,
India, 2004.
Hogben, L., Mathematics for the Million, Norton
&Company, New York, 1937.
Kulshrestha, A. K. , Teaching of Mathematics, (Third
Edition), Surya Publications, Meerut, India, 2005
Sidhu, K. S. , The Teaching of Mathematics, (Fourth
Edition), Sterling Publishers, New Delhi, India,
A Word of Thanks…
The author would like to thank the
organizers, especially Dr. Mohamed B.
Rhouma, Sultan Qaboos University,
and Dr. Lotfi Hermi, Arizona University
for inviting him to this International

Mathematics and Civil Society