A Letter to my Daughters
July 18, 2010 |Published earlier at Dr. Victor Niederhoffer's Website
Dear Muskaan and Khushboo,
Congratulations on achieving the highest possible score in your mathematics test. In the past too each of you has obtained a similar score but on different occasions.
I am all the more happy when I today receive your test reports and find that both of you have together achieved the highest possible, together while being in the VIIth standard and the Vth standard of your schooling, when you are 12 years and 9 years old respectively.
Concentration that helps in putting your best at whatever you are doing at a particular moment is clearly you have begun to exercise often. I want you to remember that when required you can practice the highest levels of concentrations necessary to get the best out of you. This score has been possible only with that.
Within a fixed period of time that an examination must be completed to think of nothing but the work at hand within a time bound manner is a mark of disciplined thinking and action. I encourage you to call upon this faculty as often as you are out to achieve anything, anywhere.
Mathematics is not just about numbers. Its an elegance of a state of mind and personality that transcends above the rhythms and cycles of perception and focuses on the completeness of relations, functions and theorems that describe specific constructs. Your ability today together, puts me at greater confidence that you will be achieving such poise and grace as often as you are required to excel at a particular situation.
The joys that can be achieved by solving a puzzle, a problem a challenge are ever present in any mathematical question that you attempt to solve. The prowess at mathematics should give you the opportunity to realize your ability at solving varieties of problems and puzzles that can be represented by symbols, signs and formulae. As you continue to grow as persons and as your repertoire of skills gets richer you should realize with ease that the most widely known scientist of our times, Albert Einstein, is known to have said that, “What can be counted may not matter in life and what matters in life may not be counted.” In stating such an idea he was never dismissive of the utility of counting but was emphasizing that the scientific approach, the path of reason, the pursuit of enquiry may not be limited by any one’s inability at converting thoughts to numbers, since before you can enumerate an idea or a thought you must grasp it to a depth that relationships of that idea to so many other ideas should be appearing very clear to you. Then an approach to quantification to test the consistency of the thoughts should get easier.
The bright glint that I noticed in the eyes of both of you as I met you with your reports tells me that achievement itself is a reward. The smiley that your teacher drew next to your marks is a memento of appreciation and acknowledgement. In life, there may be moments when appreciation for any achievement may not be as instantaneous and it may be a while before those around you will begin to appreciate of your work or contributions. I am sure you will remember the glint in your eyes today that you carry together and it shall be yours again and again in the future whenever you get the similar inner satisfaction of having done your best without having to wait for a smiley.
I must thank your teacher particularly, for such a nice and sweet gesture of saying so much to you in so few strokes of her pen. Brevity at any communication is elegant. So is the pursuit of any mathematical solution. Two different people can get the same answer, yet the one who achieves that with the minimum amount of reasoning and explaining has done a better job. Economy of movement is a hall mark of most achievers and in the elegantly written answer books that I see before me, clean hand-writing and simple solutions make me believe you are acquiring the correct attitude.
Objectivity that is feasible much more easily at Mathematics is not the sole reason for the higher probability of obtaining cent percent scores in this subject. There is a unique answer in Mathematics, most of the time. At other times if there is no single answer, there is a definite range or set of answers available most of the time. There are however, the irrational numbers, the indeterminate quantities, the undefined values (that often mistakenly are labeled as infinite) yet even in those outcomes it is uniquely possible to arrive at those conclusions. The abilities that you gather as good students of mathematics should help you acquire the wisdom to be able to cope up with the less deterministic situations that you would face in most other walks of your pursuits. The in-deterministic, non-deterministic and the undetermined are all to be studied with the help of the deterministic. That is what Isaac Newton, who perhaps was the best known scientist of the previous century, meant to say when he said, “standing on the shoulders of giants".
To be able to learn from others, to be intellectually humble in knowing and accepting you do not know something is the critical start necessary for beginning to know anything that you are going to know.
Lastly and as importantly as everything I have written to you in this letter, do remember always that numbers even if an invention of mankind as much any other language are perhaps most easily manifest everywhere in nature as compared to any other language known to man and thus likely your best medium for communicating the inner beauty that you carry.
Best wishes from a proud father that you both continue to achieve many encores,