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As someone from a scientific education background I can't help but notice that while, for example, biology is mentioned (and at times important) in the Harry Potter books and potions (akin to chemistry), there are no mentions made of math courses.

The logical explanation to me seems that as a writer, Rowling understood that for most of the target audience, maths won't be at the top of the list of interesting subjects.

However, is there an in-universe explanation as to why mathematics seems absent from the wizarding world?

What about Muggle-born kids who are taught and like math but are then shipped off to Hogwarts where, seemingly, math is a no-no?

  • I think that a more interesting question is if they are schooled before they join a wizarding school. That is, Hogwarts students join the institution at around age 10, in most countries, you start your very first grade between the ages of 5-6 , during the first four years you learn the most basic things, Calculus (Math), Simple Biology (Everyone has an Heart, everyone has 20 fingers, etc), and to write (in English, for example) . Wouldn't it be possible that wizards learned the basic math during those years, and instead of us, didn't have the need to get into more profound math concepts? – Oak Jun 9 '14 at 21:25
  • Probably maths wasn't at the top of Rowling's list of interesting subjects. In her world, wizards have no use for mathematics. Jack Vance had a different take in The Dying Earth as you can see from this quotation. – user14111 Jun 9 '14 at 21:35
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    @Oak - I would like to know which school taught you that you have 20 fingers :P – Robotnik Jun 11 '14 at 1:33
  • Reopening because I’ve found an answer specifically about math that answers this but not the linked duplicate. – Bellatrix May 28 '18 at 23:01
  • See also scifi.stackexchange.com/q/7436/4918 Does Hogwarts teach non magical classes? – b_jonas Oct 29 '18 at 10:17
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On the surface it looks like at best a student at Hogwarts received a 4th grade education in elementary studies before being shipped off to the famous School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and becoming forever educationally stunted. However if you look at the classes offered, you can see that they did receive at least some math, physics, reading & writing, geology, geography, chemistry, biology, and zoology, depending on electives.

First they have the option of [Muggle Studies], which is essentially an anthropology class. (http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Muggle_Studies)

This class aims specifically to acquaint wizards and witches who do not have direct contact with Muggles with the way they live; one known essay topic was "Why Muggles Need Electricity." It is an optional subject, taught from the third year to the seventh.

They also get at least 5 years of history (of magic) and astronomy.

Astronomy is one of the only fields of study at Hogwarts which has a direct equivalent in the Muggle world. Known student activities include learning the names of stars, constellations, and planets, as well as their location and movements, and describing the environments of planets and moons. - HP Wiki

Astronomy could open the door for mathematics and physics at an elementary level for the students. It could also be said that they would at least learn some geography from History of Magic.

And as mentioned in your question, Potions could be considered a form of chemistry.

Arithmancy is an elective which involved writing skills and math.

Homework assignments, which included writing essays, required the consultation and/or composition of complex number charts.

On top of that, a lot of the classes seemed to have them writing essays on subjects and the consuming of textbook material. Presumably this was the preferred form of further developing their reading and writing skills.

There is another class briefly mentioned named Earth Magic which may involve geology.

"I want to get into earth magic. I love to dig."

But overall I think it could be said that there is simply not a need for higher mathematics, biology, or anything else. Why study biology and medicine to become a doctor when you can wave your wand and say Vulnera Sanentur to heal deep gashes in a victim? Why study math and engineering when you can basically create animate objects via charms and construct virtually anything via transfiguration?

Muggles need these things because they don't have magic, but as a user of magic you don't need to, because, there is a spell for that.

Arthur Weasley: Now, Harry you must know all about Muggles, tell me, what exactly is the function of a rubber duck?

  • Please forgive my ignorance, but English is not my native language and I have little experience with Anglo-Saxon schooling system, so could you please explain what composition of complex number charts is? It sounds like filling Excel sheet with consecutive numbers by hand. – Darth Hunterix Dec 2 '15 at 10:27
  • @DarthHunterix I'm not 100% sure, I can only guess. It could be solving and graphing complex polynomials by hand and filling out a chart. – Jack B Nimble Dec 2 '15 at 14:33
  • I see. Then, until further information is divulged by JKR, I'm going to assume that they were just studying 1337 5p34K. – Darth Hunterix Dec 3 '15 at 6:44
  • @DarthHunterix Perhaps it means composition in the functional sense; you look up a value in one chart and then must use that value as a key into another chart, repeating the process as much as necessary before obtaining your final result. (Possibly made more complicated if the numbers in question are themselves complex.) – JAB May 28 '18 at 23:04
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Wizards can do calculations magically - they’d learn that instead.

The J.K. Rowling Pottermore writing on explains that using odd measurements isn’t a problem for wizards, since they can do calculations by magic, so it’s not hard for them to do difficult math.

Witches and wizards are not averse to laborious calculations, which they can, after all, do magically, so they do not find it inconvenient to weigh in ounces, pounds and stones; measure in inches, feet and miles; or pay for goods in Knuts, Sickles, and Galleons.
- Measurements (Pottermore)

It’s likely that the reason Hogwarts students don’t have to learn math is because it’s possible to do all the math needed in the wizarding world by magic, so they wouldn’t need to study math to be able to do it - they’d just use magic to do their calculations instead.

  • A lot of good it did the Apothecary owner who was selling Dragon liver for 17 Sickles an ounce, apparently not realizing that 17 Sickles = 1 Galleon. (Changed in later editions to 16 Sickles an ounce.) – Alex May 29 '18 at 1:15
  • @Alex there is a lot of pricing that works that way, and it is all marketing and psychology (well, to borrow from another universe, headology). There are reasons something is priced at 99 cents vs. $1, etc. Heck, my local grocery sells a 1l bottle of my favorite soda for 99 cents every day. When they are "on sale" they are 3 for $3 (so a penny more each than regular price) - all headology on getting people to part with their $ – ivanivan May 29 '18 at 11:57
  • @ivanivan My point is that the price was listed at 17 Sickles which is actually one Galleon. It would be like someone listing a price as 4 quarters instead of $1. Someone must have noticed this because in newer editions the price was changed to 16 Sickles. – Alex May 29 '18 at 12:27

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