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Creative algebra at work

Hear from experts as they talk about creative algebra and mathematics at work. Created by Khan Academy.

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Video transcript

(light music) - Hi, everyone, Sal Khan here. I've always been drawn to creative things. I like to see, change new things in the world, and because of that, I've been drawn to careers where I can most apply my creativity, especially in an abstract sense. And algebra is perhaps the purest expression of creativity, and that's why I've worked in everything from computer programming, to product design, to a hedge fund analyst, where you're investing in stocks. And in all of them, it was incredibly creative and used a lot of algebra. But don't take my word for it. You're going to meet some of my friends who can tell you a lot more about the connection between algebra and work and creativity. (typewriter typing) (light music continues) - I think my idea of how creativity works in STEM jobs has changed since I've gotten to college. I used to think that all the mathematicians would be just locked away in some office and typing on their computers or writing down equations by themselves and coming up with incredibly beautiful ideas just by themselves. But I'm realizing now that I'm in college that mathematics and creativity, it's a lot about communication and it's a lot about trying to build off of each other's ideas and bounce ideas off of each other and build upon ideas that have already been made by people decades ago. And I think that the facts that we all come with it, with our own perspectives and different ideas and different ways of being creative, allows math to advance further. Because we can all combine our creative ideas into something bigger. - We collect data on everything. The ability to use that data in a smart, safe, and efficient way depends on new applications of mathematical concepts to these new and innovative data sets. As we get to that point, we'll start to be thinking outside the box a lot more and we'll be a much more innovative digital society. But that can't happen unless we start trying to be creative and not just rely on tried and true. (typewriter typing) (light music continues) - Creativity's really important for me as a future job, as a part of my future job. I would want to do something that changes and then I can use problem-solving skills constantly. I feel like when I make animations or when I figure out how to explain something, I am really, I love that, because it's, there's so many different solutions, but knowing that you can try to find and experiment with different ones and maybe create something beautiful is really, I don't know, inspiring to me. - Mathematigals is an educational initiative that I co-founded with a fellow mathematician, Jess Williams, and what we're trying to do is make maths fun and accessible and encourage more girls to pursue careers in maths. Creativity is essential here because we're trying to think of ways that people will enjoy maths and it will be fun and accessible to them. Different creative techniques that we've been using are trying to present mathematical problems in fun, short videos and that explain the problem in a way that everybody will understand and will make them want to learn more and discover more about the topics that we're talking about. - I'm really lucky that I get to be creative every day in my work and I have been since I got into this field of data science. In general, across the last decade, my work has really been about designing and testing innovative ways to capture human behavior within game-based assessments. My collaborators and I, from the time I was in graduate school to now, use a variety of different modeling techniques from various fields. We'll pull things from engineering, aerospace, more basic mathematical models, to help us achieve this goal. We get to think outside the box. We get to think about how we can pull in different types of thinking from different fields to help us better understand human behavior, human cognition, learning. It's really exciting and really novel, and it's something that, because of the field that I'm in, I've been able to do this now for multiple years. (typewriter typing) (light music continues) - Whenever I wanna have, come up with a solution to a problem and I don't have it, my immediate reaction is to go outside and go on a walk. I love walking in all kinds of weather. It's kind of, it's just, I feel like with the peace and calm, moving away from the problem and stepping away from it, sometimes I get way better ideas and it inspires me. But I also think there's something to be said about not being inspired. Not always is amazing. (laughing) I feel like sometimes I get struck with inspiration for how I want to explain a Khan Academy video or how I wanna approach a piece of art or how I want to approach a math problem. But sometimes, it doesn't come. So I feel like what the best solution is when you are trying to get into that creative zone and you can't is to just do it and try to do something anyway. Write something or write your equations. Try to figure it out. And if you make mistakes, that's okay. Because it's something to jump off of, and maybe, sometimes seeing what you already know down on paper can help you come up with better ideas and could help you be more creative. - Forcing yourself to just conjure a solution simply does not work. Instead, take a break from a task. Pick something else up, like a physical sport or even video games. And then come back to the original problem. That can do wonders. (typewriter typing) (light music continues) - One of my biggest passions is documentary filmmaking. I've been making videos since I was in middle school. And I remember being, it was always a challenge, because sometimes I wanted to do things, but I didn't have the equipment to do it. I really wanted to record myself in a certain way, but there was no way for anyone to hold the microphone, or I didn't have a dolly or any expensive camera equipment. So, I remember, I think the most important thing to do is just use what you have. I would tape a cross-country ski pole to my ceiling and hold the microphone that way. Or I would put a pillow in a box and then speak into the microphone with that as my makeshift sound studio or make a tripod out of a pile of books. And I feel like it's kinda the same with math. You are, sometimes, you don't know how to solve a really big problem, and you only have all the tools you've been taught up to that point. And maybe there is a fancier way of getting to the solution, but a lotta the time, it's just about combining things that you already have in your, that you've already learned, and coming up with a solution that way. And sometimes, that comes up with some really creative and unexpected solutions to problems. (typewriter typing) (light music continues) - Algebra is really the unifying thread of almost all of mathematics. You may think algebra is boring, but it is the one tool you can use to not only understand but unlock the universe. Creative algebra is used in computer game design. It powers how artificial intelligence works. Mastering algebra will provide you with the ability to decode and understand many complex systems. In my opinion, if you can master algebra, you can master anything. (light music continues)