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Rafael Barkhudaryan: The mystery of math is enticing


Rafael Barkhudaryan
Rafael Barkhudaryan

Photo: Mediamax

Rafael Barkhudaryan
Rafael Barkhudaryan

Photo: Mediamax

Rafael Barkhudaryan
Rafael Barkhudaryan

Photo: Mediamax

Rafael Barkhudaryan
Rafael Barkhudaryan

Photo: Mediamax

Rafael Barkhudaryan
Rafael Barkhudaryan

Photo: Mediamax

Rafael Barkhudaryan
Rafael Barkhudaryan

Photo: Mediamax


Mathematics is the driving force of love, justice, and progress. Mediamax and VOLO launch a joint project, MathArt. It will tell about the talents developing Mathematics in Armenia, and their work.

Mathematics is of key value in the modern world and we hope that MathArt will help attract Armenian youngsters into that particular science.

Rafael Barkhudaryan was born to a family of mathematicians and physicists. Stories about foremost mathematicians such as Galois, Euler, Gauss and Vinner have inspired him to choose math as a profession. Based on his own experience he believes that to love mathematics you need to have good teachers and good examples of success.

“For instance the most famous mathematician in Armenia is Sergey Mergelyan. I have never met him but he is one of those mathematicians who can motivate people. People like him make us believe that if they have managed to succeed in math maybe we will be successful too. My elder brother, who is quite successful, has inspired me to make this choice,” says Rafael Barkhudaryan, who has been the head of the Institute of Mathematics of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia since 2014.

Words can’t describe the beauty of math

As a science, mathematics is very interesting and hard to explain. Probably you have to become a mathematician to understand even the most fantastic results which have already become a classic (laughing – author).

Rafael Barkhudaryan Rafael Barkhudaryan

Photo: Mediamax


What I mean is that only mathematicians can appreciate the whole beauty of math and words are not enough to describe it, or mathematicians are simply unable to explain it. There have been attempts to explain these results in popular terms but some time later they don’t suffice either. On the other hand, mystery also attracts people. Many may fail or may not try to explain the results of those who have reached the pinnacle of success in mathematics, but they are valued even without explanations.

We treat math mostly as a formula. Maybe it’s easier to master it this way, but this is where the whole beauty of math is lost. If we go back in time we’ll see that many formulas didn’t even exist back then. In schools and universities we are taught that if it’s mathematics, it must have formulas, otherwise it’s not math. This is so wrong.

Math and abstract objects

The principle of math is abstraction. People wanted to describe real life processes through mathematical objects. And these mathematical abstract (phantom) objects, which at first glance have nothing in common with life, began to describe real life processes very well.
Rafael Barkhudaryan Rafael Barkhudaryan

Photo: Mediamax


If we speak about mathematical objects, they have nothing to do with our lives. As a matter of fact, approaches differ. For example, according to Plato, there is a world we live in and there is a world these abstract objects live in. They are independent of us and we explore them.  On the other hand, if we don’t explore, they won’t even exist. Even if we take numbers: they are abstract, they don’t exist. You will never come across number 3. You can see 3 sheep or 3 chairs, but you will never see number 3 as it is.

I think the human being is part of the nature, and all the results produced by him will be in tune with nature. It’s impossible to create a pure abstract notion since sooner or later its connection with real world will be found. This has been proved repeatedly throughout the development of science.

Math takes a lot of effort

School math essentially differs from higher math. When I was applying for the Faculty of Mathematics of the Yerevan State University, I never imagined that I would no longer study the math I used to love at school. Students who were good at math at school or won Olympiads don’t realize what higher math is about. I mean I have never met a mathematician who really knew what awaited him. Everyone has got aspirations where this profession is concerned. Some get disappointed during first years, others on the contrary - they go on and succeed. At first things don’t work, but you have to make an effort, sometimes even more than you can ever imagine.
Rafael Barkhudaryan Rafael Barkhudaryan

Photo: Mediamax


Besides making efforts, the role of professors is substantial. Some of them approach the subject formally and thus push their students off. I know some brilliant mathematicians who have told me that they have contemplated dropping math in their second or third year at the university and choosing something else. I was really surprised.

Fortunately they didn’t do it, they moved on and became famous simply because they had met professors who had managed to draw them in.

I myself teach at the YSU and the American University of Armenia. The role of professors, who can instill interest in students, is very important. Otherwise you can learn simply by reading books. Everything is written in books and you can learn on your own. By the way, many have done so, but it is the ability to get students interested that matters.

As for students, it solely depends on them whether they succeed in math or not. They should work and study hard. To succeed in math students should be persistent, but only persistence is not enough. Some innate talent is required, love and the feeling that this is what you should be doing.

The formula of developing math is simple

The only option and the way to develop volitional spheres is to invest in them. There is no other formula. Of course you can make wrong investments and fail, but the right investments bring good results.
Rafael Barkhudaryan Rafael Barkhudaryan

Photo: Mediamax


Fundamental science has always developed under the state’s patronage. The development of the sphere depends on the whole structure - from school to science, funding and using scientific results.

The IT sphere has been declared a priority, but in most cases it implies mathematical mentality and is based on mathematical knowledge. In order to develop this sphere the state should pay equal attention to all directions.

Marie Taryan

Photos by Emin Aristakesyan


VOLO is the general partner of the project

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