Alejandra Cisneros Valencia – The Probability of Life

Not all of us have to know the same thing about mathematics, nor do we have the same possibilities to operate numerically in the same time and with the same ease. However, it is true that there is not a single day in our lives without a minimum relationship with a number, from the exchange of money, the recording of weather or time, to operations a little more complex that are part of our society. The importance of mathematics is so evident that even if we do not use formulas or algebraic equations, we are able to represent models based on the phenomena we face each day. The most frequent situations in our lives are those that can be called as “chance” or “random” than those that correspond as “accurate” or “precise”. A branch of mathematics has been responsible for studying this aspect and developing methods that help us to understand the complexity of life —the study of probability. Will it rain this weekend? Who will win the championship? How much money will I make this month? Facts as simple as those mentioned above need to be interpreted with probabilistic thinking, which revolves around the perception of uncertainty and chance. By analyzing each of these facts by themselves we cannot conclude anything. However, if we take one set of data in an appropriate number and form from each of those situations (for example, how many days it rained during the week), it is possible to predict with a satisfied degree of certainty what is likely to happen in the future. Since human life is not completely predictable and chance and random phenomena revolve around us, at each moment we make decisions that directly or indirectly use the concepts and techniques of probability. More importantly, without the understanding and application of this branch of mathematics the progress we have achieved as society would not be possible due to the lack of analysis of results and data that would have led to numerous events attempted without knowing that their probability was none or minimal and therefore a complete waste of time. In other words, the essential importance of the utilization of probability lies in its ability to estimate or predict events. The greater the amount of data available to calculate the certainty of an event, the more accurate the calculated result will be. Despite the usefulness of this concept, the majority of people experience restlessness or some degree of stress when they are dealing with mathematics and the complexity of numbers and formulas. This rejection is the direct consequence of the influence of the objective difficulty of mathematics as a discipline and, on the other, the subjective way in which the individual faces this difficulty. If we can understand that numbers are present in every facet of our daily lives serving as patterns to guide our future, we will embrace a style of dealing with logical and coherent reality, the search for accuracy in results, a clear understanding and expression through the use of symbols and numbers, the capacity for abstraction, reasoning and generalization and finally the perception of certainty and probability as a value.

Alejandra Cisneros Valencia