Dear Mathematician, don’t be too mechanistic! Be flexible! (A reflection)

This post is inspired by students’ (finalists of Kontes Literasi Matematika IV, Sriwijaya University) anwers to a question given by Prof. Dr. Zulkardi in the play-off session:

raja louis

Anwering this questions, two of the three finalists employed algebraic manipulation to find the answer. They argued that if Raja Louis X (10) has 16 wifes, then Raja Louis V (5) must have 8 wifes as it satisfied direct proportion.

Indeed, there should be no relation between the number of wifes a king has with its and its name order.

So, HOW IS THE CORRECT ANSWER?
Come to the library, find a history book of Raja Louis V or click in search engine and see how many wifes he has. This simple.

This does not mean to blame the two students, or each of us who misinterpreted the question as to work in either proportion or other algebraic manipulation. This, however, to reflect how a mathematician should position him/her-self.

We should realize that not everything in this world has a pattern through which we could justify a problem mechanistically. So, let’s be flexible.

IS THIS MATHEMATICS?
YES, for sure.

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