Synaesthesia Discovery

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Feeling Life in Mathematics

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“Do you feel life in mathematics?” When I was asked that question by my son Skye, I could sense the meaning of the question, but I felt the answer was beyond my reach.

As a child, I was fascinated by mathematics myself. It was my best subject and the subject that I enjoyed the most. Unlike Chemistry which I was not good at, Maths was something that I easily related to and had a deep sense of appreciation.

I felt life in mathematics to a certain extent. However, I did not completely comprehend the question. So I was keen for Skye to share his experience.

“I feel and see life in mathematics. I feel it the most in nature, in furniture and in colours.”

How fascinating, I thought. I always know mathematics is in his soul. But does he have a different way of perceiving nature and other things he said?

“When a leave falls off a tree, I always want to feel how heavy it weighs. When raindrops fall on me, I always try to figure out the speed they fall. When Thomas and I walk on our secret natural trail, I think about the difference in distance between that trail and the one you and dad drive on.”

Skye looked around for a few seconds and said, “come Mum!” He walked to the air hockey table on which there was a big box.

“If you want me to move the box off the table, I think about what the best angle can be to move it off because it looks too heavy, and I don’t want it to crash on me.”

I was getting more and more fascinated. I pointed to the TV and asked him what he felt. He said he was thinking about the area of the TV.

“I feel a lot of mathematics in an analog clock. Any angle formed by two hands gives me colour synaesthesia. I see different colours in different angles.

I also feel geometric angles in many things. For example, I feel 40 to 45 degrees if I sit on a plane which has just taken off, whereas I only can feel 45 degrees when a plane is getting ready to land.” Skye elaborated more.

He learnt about gravity four years ago by watching a children show called Sesame Street. Before that, he used to wonder how we could stand straight while the earth was non stop rotating. He bent here and leaned there trying to see what could happen. I told him I had the same question in my mind when I was young, and often wondered if one day, we could float. He has been intrigued by gravity since.

“What about colours? What does mathematics have anything to do with colours?” I asked Skye.

“It has a lot to do with colours. Let me show you some unique colours on iPad.” Skye showed me a few colours, some of which I haven’t even heard of. “This colour is called Magenta. You may think it is the same colour as Purple. But no. When I see Magenta, I want to find out the percentage of red and the percentage of purple in this colour.”

After many weeks’ anticipation, the foal of our neighbour’s at the farm was finally born on Thursday evening. We were all extremely excited to meet the baby pony on Saturday. He was kept in a pen with his mother who was very protective. She didn’t let the baby leave her one second. Skye stared at the baby with curiosity as he was wondering what percentage of white the foal had.

Skye’s recent fascination is absolute values. When he sees a negative number, he wants to work out the difference between this number and its absolute value. He feels the difference in a spatial way. He didn’t know what the correct term was to describe this difference. Therefore, he invented a name himself, i.e., Peddestiam which in his mind means the difference between a negative number and its absolute value.

I start to understand what Skye’s saying of “feeling life in mathematics” means …

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