I am software developer with big interest in Mathematics and especially discrete mathematics (which is foundational for computer science).

I am currently reading Discrete Mathematics and Its Applications but I feel like I am still lacking connection or history/background between theories and how to apply them.

For example, I read about Conjunctive Normal Forms and then I start wondering who created them and what do they solve? what problem they were facing to introduce them?

To put it in different terms, most math books seem to miss the narrative or the story or conceptual information on why a certain topic was introduced. They feel more like reference books where they document corollaries, theories or definitions one after the other.

Some times the books answer these questions but most of the times they don't Is there any references for resources that might help in this area other than Googling for it all the time?

Am I approaching learning these concepts the wrong way?

What do you recommend based on your experience?

How do you get real intuition for math concepts?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Yup, welcome to studying math. Settle in, it doesn't get easier. All you can do is google for explanations and seek out better textbooks. $\endgroup$ – Jack M Sep 7 '18 at 8:04

The problem here is that historical perspective, mathematical textbooks, and mathematical research unfortunately don't go hand in hand. When you write a textbook, you try to explain the concepts in the most pedagogical way, but almost always the presentations that are the most approachable are very different from the original motivations for the various definitions. When you write a research article you aim for conciseness, so giving a historical perspective is usually not contemplated.

You also have to consider that often the modern versions of concepts are the result of many small improvements and reformulations of the original ones, and going through the whole history of the development of such notions can be both hard and not very illuminating.

That being said, sometimes you can find articles about the history of some concept or result. But not for everything.

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