The topic of **mathematics** could bring a feeling of *disgust* or *emotional trauma* to many. If you are in that category, it may be best to not continue reading this article as I am attempting to show the exact opposite, i.e. how math is an art form and can be used for emotional well-being! However, my guess is that it perhaps works only if one is *energized* by working with math. With that disclaimer, let us start with the art-form part. In many universities in the US, one can get a BA in math (as opposed to a BS), so it is not completely crazy to think of math as an art form, although subsequently I will be fair in pointing out how it differs from art). There are many websites and authors that have written about math as a form of art, like a painting or a piece of music.

Merriam-Webster defines art as “*the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects*” and in my opinion, math satisfies that definition. Take for example, the famous bell curve for the probability density function of a normal random variable. We have all been told that the area under the bell curve is one. A simple integration will not work and requires a couple of neat tricks. But when I saw it for the first time, I thought that is one of the most aesthetically pleasing display of skill and creative imagination I have seen. When we see such a clever proof (and understand it), we experience joy, awe, and excitement. Math can arouse such emotions and can hence can be argued as an art form whether we create or consume it.

Much like music, there is a structure to math that is based on some fundamental rules or axioms over which everything is *made up*. Math is inherently abstract, and there is no pressing need for it to conform to reality. Of course, we find use for things like complex numbers (which has a real and an imaginary part), prime numbers, multi-dimensional spaces, and fractals, even though they may all have been developed without applications in mind. Many times people call concepts in probability as statistics, but that is not true. Probability is about describing properties of samples from population in a made-up world, but statistics is guessing properties of the population from samples taken in the real world. But even in statistics we make assumptions that hold in a made-up world.

There is a case to be made for math **not** being an art form. A writer in *StackExchange* makes a valid argument that the “primary” focus of art is emotional expression or evocation. But in math it is usually a *secondary* objective. In the above example, the primary objective is to show the area under the bell curve is one, and the proof just happened to be beautiful thus warranting an emotional expression. The Eureka moment happens after the result is obtained for the creator, and for the audience (or reader) the excitement is after verifying everything is right. Also, one mistake, error, or flaw in the mathematical logical flow renders the whole piece useless, unlike music or drawings where the flaws are not as devastating. Math needs to be consumed in its entirety unlike other art.

Irrespective of whether we believe math is an art form or not, it is possible to *create, consume, share, and do* math just like we do those with art. More often than not, joy is inward and somewhat individualized (although there are authors that are talking about doing math in groups). Usually in math there isn’t a notion of audience (unless you are in a classroom). The tricky part is that a pre-requisite knowledge is needed to enjoy math but even a baby can enjoy music. Nonetheless, **it is possible to use math to improve our emotional well-being**. It gives opportunities to overcome challenges, increase our self worth, and give us wins to keep us going when the times are difficult. Here are three steps (called the three **W**’s) to consider to use for personal well-being and emotional health.

## Write Down

As a first step, it is good to write down things in math we are good at. This way we can focus on, as a hobby, things we are skilled in. This is at least to start with, because we want something that can make us feel better and not cause further misery! Eventually we could move into new topic areas, but that is not crucial. We can make the list as long as we want. It is also useful to put down a few math concepts we are not good at (just so we know where our boundaries are).

## Watch

There are plenty of math resources online that we can take advantage of. For example, I highly recommend watching Presh Talwalkar’s YouTube channel and blog for some amazingly interesting problems, There are also medium posts with solutions that one can consume (it is part of the math interest group). Of course, there is the age old CliffsNotes and Schaum’s Outlines. Although I said watching, if we feel comfortable enough to first solve the problem and then watch the solutions, that would be fantastic.

## Work Out

Thanks to customized delivery in social media, we can get plenty of math-related problems in our feeds in FaceBook, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, etc. (for example: three banana emojis add to 9, two bananas and an apple add to 8, then what does one banana and two apples add to?). There are plenty of such math problems to work out that are challenging enough that we feel good about ourselves if we solve them. Of course there is Sudoku but one could also try Nerdle which is like Wordle with math symbols!

Have fun and let’s explore the possibility of math to be considered as a source of entertainment.