One of the most used numbers in mathematics (especially hard mathematics!) is:
When most people are asked about infinity, they will probably say something like “It’s the biggest number,” or “It’s totally massively huge.”
Both of these statements, however, are not true!
“What?” you ask incredulously. “Infinity is definitely the biggest number! What number is bigger?”
That is a fair question. Infinity, however, is NOT a number! It’s really a concept. It means endless. The roots of the word “in-” (not) and “fin” (end) quite literally mean “no end”!
It’s not big. It’s not huge. It’s not totally mega gigantically enormous. It’s endless!
Infinity is a hard concept for the human brain to wrap its mind around. After all, everything we see every day is finite, from the length of our hair to the time in our lunch period to the size of our bed. So when I say something like:
∞ + 1 = ∞ or ∞ + ∞ = ∞
You might be like:
But the truth is, it isn’t so complicated. Once you undestand that infinity is not a number, it starts to make sense. Everything plus everything is still going to be everything. Why? Because nothing is LARGER than everything.
If you’re still confused, there are some great resources for explaining infinity. Make sure to check out:
How to explain infinity to a four-year-old
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