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Introducing Mathematical Concepts for Confronting a Crisis

amcasari profile image amcasari 🦕 ・2 min read

Times are not normal. Evidence of the changing world around us can be found in every news source, every social media channel, every shared photo of a stripped grocery store surfacing around the world. The start of this “not normal” is not evenly distributed. You might be someone who has already been through the first storm, and now you are returning back to a cautious new social pattern. You might be adjusting your expectations to a new daily routine, with constant interruptions or disturbances that were previously not there. Or, maybe you haven’t felt the impact personally yet.

Our ability to see, process, and work through crisis are all as unique as our individual brains and experiences. In a previous life, I spent years training to be the person who had to absorb all of the inputs and react tactically with brilliance and care in moments of crisis. I trained for it, I excelled at it. Unfortunately, not all of my previous experience and mental frameworks I developed that allowed me to be highly effective in a crisis apply here. This is … hard.

What do you do when your previous experience has not adequately prepared you for the current situation? Personally, I’ve been slowly sifting through all the tools I do possess to figure out which ones work best right now.

After unsuccessfully trying a few techniques, I found clarity. When I was in college, I really struggled with some specific areas of study which were highly math-based but always explained through application. It wasn’t until I turned the table and focused on the problem as a math problem (rather than, say, an electrical engineering problem) that I was able to hold the methodology in my head. We do this in other ways: drawing parallels between the things we know how to handle and what we are dealing with now.

This is working best for me now: breaking problems down into mathematical concepts to ground decision making and understand the world around us. As I try to extend this to explain what I am thinking to other people, I realize that my math experience covers concepts that are not as widely studied but are critical to parsing much of the research and recommendations during a global, multifaceted pandemic.

So, as my one creative idea in a time of survival, I’m starting a series explaining these concepts I use from network science, nonlinear dynamics, and chaos. I hope these help encourage you to explore more the frameworks that ground you, and give you a better understanding of the amazing work around the world that is fueling the changes we are feeling.

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