Jan 18
Math Dreams
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The power of the subconscious mind has rarely been questioned, and its mysteries seem to just get deeper.  Over a century after the raw beginnings of psychoanalysis, the purpose of dreams is still very much a contested issue.  People can dream about giving a speech in their underwear, running in slow motion, or doing math problems, and they all can have radically different interpretations. The interpretations are sometimes more telling of the inner life of the interpreter than with the dreamer.  Sometimes dreams can have symbols that speak to an inner life, and occasionally they will be prescriptive, and even prophetic.


Schools of thought on this issue tend to categorize people into two types, analytical and intuitive, and dreams can be seen as extensions of the creative mind or residue of a busy thinker.  One might think that math dreams would fall easily into the rational.  Numbers would rarely mean anything more than what they are, and a dream would be illustrative of the dreamer’s preoccupations with math, and the numbers often go into dead zones that mean very little.  But they can also occasionally be urgent messages from the subconscious, speaking to the dreamer in their native language. Interestingly, when it comes to the idea of dreaming in relation to logical and creative arguments, mathematics can live very comfortably in both regions of the brain.


It doesn’t matter whether someone goes to sleep after spending hours on sat prep, or if they are falling in love with someone new.  Mathematical minds are somehow programmed to see things in a peculiar way.  However, it is interesting to note that even the analytical part of the subconscious has some rather clever tricks up its sleeve.


One of the most accomplished mathematicians of the 19th century, Srinivasa Aiyangar Ramanujan, had a very peculiar relationship to his dreams.  It is not uncommon to dream about math, and it’s also not uncommon to have peculiar insights in dreams, but rarely do they collide with such marvelous force.  Ramanujan had regular visitations from a goddess named Sri Namagiri Lakshmi of Namakkal, who not only sparked his imagination, but provided him with formulas.  He would write these down immediately upon awakening, and later investigate to discover if they had validity.  They did.


This doesn’t necessarily mean that helping one’s children do math games before they go to sleep will bring about the appearance of a muse of numbers.  But it’s impossible to rule it out.  Stranger things have certainly happened.