Unlock Your Full Creative Potential with Mathematical Thinking

Did this thought ever cross your mind how some people are extremely creative and others maybe not so much? Probably they come by their genius through magic or luck. 


The truth is human beings have the potential to reach much greater heights than they ordinarily do if they adopt the habits of mind – creative mathematical thinking. All brilliant innovators and thinkers come by their brilliance through mathematical thinking. 


With mathematical thinking skills, you’ll become highly capable, creative problem solvers in the workplace or any non-routine situations.


I post-graduated with a degree in applied mathematics but chose a career in writing and marketing. But the mathematical thinking skill I developed through my education always helped me in my work life. Now, I feel that every organization needs mathletes to drive growth because they can see and analyze things(especially data) from a different perspective. 


Mathematical prowess is an extremely critical, yet often overlooked ability. But once you acquire this skill, you’ll see a whole new universe around you that’s different from the one you see every day. We all have an innate ability for mathematics, but the reality is, we do not work on it as other successful creative geniuses do.


So, if you want to flex your creative muscle, you must learn to think mathematically. It will help you change the way you look at things and enable you to see the hidden things in the space called – out of the box. 


There are some effective methods of mathematical thinking that will help you produce brilliant ideas. In this guide, I’ll share those methods to improve your creative thinking skills so you can be more productive in the workplace. 


The best part? This doesn’t involve any nightmarishly horrible mathematical equations. 


So, grab your coffee and keep scrolling!

What is mathematical thinking?

Mathematical thinking is a process but different from solving complex equations. It is a whole way of looking at things outside the box, exploring, questioning, visualizing, justifying, abstracting, and stripping them down to their essentials.

How does mathematical thinking increase brain efficiency?

The beauty of mathematical thinking is that it helps build the muscles of the brain and eliminate blurred thinking, which in turn brings clarity and reason to your thoughts. When mathematical thinking is combined with creativity, you’ll experience a multiplicity of ideas. Possessing a mathematical thinking skill is like having a set of X-ray glasses through which you can see the underlying structure beneath the seemingly chaotic and complex world.


Neuroscience has pinned down that the brain of a math wiz somehow takes conceptual thinking to another level. When you practice mathematics or get engaged in abstract thinking (the very core of mathematical thinking), it stimulates the brain and enhances your cognitive skills like memory, attention, and processing speed. It further enhances your ability to reason logically, making you more efficient at analyzing information and making informed decisions. 

What is creativity?

Creativity is not a skill but a mindset that separates us from machines or robots. It’s the ‘how’ part of problem-solving that enables you to think of new ideas in a nonlinear way (from multiple angles) to derive solutions that are innovative and inspirational. 


While creativity is a fundamental aspect of human thinking, everyone’s personal opinion about it is different. Creativity encompasses various elements, including originality, enjoyment, value, the creative process, and imagination. By combining these elements, scientists define creativity as the capability to create something that is both novel and valuable to others.

How to improve creativity with mathematical thinking 

We are living in the age of the creative, where creative people contribute a significant portion of the world’s revenue, estimated at $2.250 billion. The impact of creativity on the world’s economy and society is undeniable, as it continues to shape and influence global culture. Creativity is all around us in various forms that we experience every day. 


So, if you also want to contribute to the global economy and aspire to develop a creative mind that always generates novel ideas, you should practice mathematical thinking. 


Here are some proven strategies to think mathematically that will stretch your brain to think out of the box. 

  1. Practice abstraction – it’s beautiful – and important

Abstraction is the essence of mathematical thinking. It’s an effective way to generate new ideas and gain new insights about a particular scenario. Abstract thinking involves seeing the context and bigger picture of an idea, absorbing information, and making connections to the wider world. It helps you understand real-world concepts which aren’t directly tied to concrete physical experiences, such as freedom or vulnerability.

Friends with LoveAbstract thinking is a hallmark of great minds such as philosophers, artists, scientists, writers, and mathematicians. These individuals can take in sensory information and connect it to the broader world.


A prime example of this process can be seen in a poet who transforms concrete observations into abstract concepts through the use of figurative languages, such as metaphors, similes, analogies, and symbols.


A further demonstration of abstract thinking can be seen in comprehending the significance of data. Today, experts across all industries devise innovative methods to measure and represent vast amounts of information daily. But the collected information is virtually worthless unless someone can identify patterns, evaluate their implications, and construct coherent narratives to convey them to others. The process of grasping the hidden meaning behind the data highlights the importance of abstract thinking.


Abstraction further helps in developing a more flexible and creative mind, as it encourages the brain to think beyond the immediate and tangible.


Developers can greatly benefit from exercising their abstract thinking muscles because they have to deal with complex problem-solving scenarios

every day.

  1. Be curious – keep asking why 

This exercise is highly beneficial when you brainstorm ideas for storytelling or build a new product. Always ask why? Why does your product have this feature? Why will the person need that feature? Why does your character have this unique trait? Why do you want to market to a specific group of people? Drill by asking why again and again.


Cute asia children in the classroom Cute asia children question yourself stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images


This process of thinking is called dimensionalization in mathematics. Because every time you drill down, you add dimension to your whys to find more profound and more compelling answers/ideas, enabling you to see the bigger picture

  1. Focus on divergence 

Divergent thinking directly relates to extreme mathematics performance. It’s a creative and free-form way of exploring many innovative ideas/solutions to a pressing problem. It’s about starting from a particular point and generating multiple approaches to a problem.


Divergent thinkers are often curious, risk-takers and can spontaneously produce many innovative ideas.


To go out of the box, you need to diverge your thoughts and let them cross the borders within your minds, from what you know to what you haven’t yet thought about. 



You can associate ideas with areas where they were never applied before. Because when you think creatively to bring in new ideas, there’s no single correct answer. There are many possible alternatives and you have to mix and match them. Only in that case, you will be able to generate novel ideas.

  1. Visualization

Being a mathematician and a writer, I often find myself visualizing ideas because mathematics – in its essence – is a constellation of wild things and you can only see those weird things through visualization and imagination.


Spatial visualization is an area of mathematical thinking that encompasses the capability to visualize objects and pictures within your mind and manipulate their positions and properties mentally. Numerous studies in mathematics have concluded that a strong visualization ability is closely tied to advanced problem-solving abilities, as well as overall success in many areas of life. 


Moreover, visual thinking is a common practice among highly successful people. It’s also called visual mind mapping. For instance, author Jonathan Franzen has been known to write his novels with a blindfold and earmuffs on, allowing him to fully concentrate on the visualization process.


Nike CEO Mark Parker takes this concept a step further, utilizing both hemispheres of his brain by dedicating one side of his notebook to sketching and the other to ideation.


A Quick Exercise

Let’s do a quick exercise to stimulate your visual thinking neurons. At the end of your work day, close your eyes and take 5 to 10 deep breaths.


See yourself going through the activities of your whole day.

Observe what you achieved, and what you wanted to achieve but couldn’t find the time for. Did you check all the items on your to-do list? What moments were planned and what activities were unintentional? How did you respond to them? 


When you visualize your whole day, you’ll recall the moments where decisions are happening and where they aren’t.


That’s where you can find the loopholes and work around them to create big opportunities – the next day. Note down the points that you think are important. 


Truly seeing yourself spending the time will help you make decisions that support your long-term objectives instead of sabotaging them.

  1. Connect the dots

All mathematicians and scientists follow the same approach when they work on a breakthrough innovation: new things are born by putting old things together. So whatever ideas you have come up with through abstract thinking, divergence, dimensionalization, and visual brainstorming, connect them.

Your creative idea lies behind the path you create by connecting those dots. 


Leonardo Da Vinci is often cited as a prime example of creativity. He believed that the key to unlocking one’s imagination was to connect the unconnected(seemingly unrelated concepts and ideas).


He would visualize various objects, landscapes, figures, and events, and then draw connections between them, exciting his mind in the process. This ability to make unusual connections was fundamental to Leonardo’s genius, leading to his discovery of the Law of Continuity through his observations.


The artist is often referred to as superhuman due to his exceptional creative abilities, evident in his paintings such as the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, Salvator Mundi, Lady with Ermine, and more. His legacy – as one of the world’s greatest artists – reinforces his incredible imaginative and artistic skills.

  1. Invert, always invert

Carl Jacobi was a renowned German mathematician who made significant contributions to various fields of science during his career. He was widely known for his unique method of solving challenging problems, which was based on the principle of:  “man muss immer umkehren,” which means, “invert, always invert.”


According to Jacobi, if you want to gain a clearer understanding of a problem, you should restate it in inverse form. He would write down the opposite of the math problem he was trying to solve and often arrive at the solution with ease.


You can also practice this inversion strategy of mathematical thinking to put a spotlight on errors and roadblocks that are not obvious at first.


Great thinkers and innovators think both forwards and backward.


They often look at things from the opposite perspective to reveal new insights and ask questions like, “What if the opposite were true?” or “What if I approached this situation from a different angle?” This type of thinking can uncover exciting opportunities for innovation.

  1. Activate the subconscious mind

When we’re actively working on something, our conscious mind also known as “the task-positive network” runs the show. It functions in a linear and logical fashion. However, our subconscious mind( the phenomenon of creativity emerging during periods of rest) operates differently, pulling information from areas of the brain that are not accessible when we are consciously working. It is in these areas where our creative ideas are born.


Neuroscientists have found that our subconscious mind is duly running in the background whenever we think logically.  


Brain Brain , concept idea art of thinking, surreal portrait painting, conceptual artwork, 3d illustration the subconscious mind stock illustrations


Mathematician David Goss has experienced the power of the subconscious mind when it comes to creativity. As a professor of mathematics and an expert in number theory, Goss spent 40 years creating a new mathematical language that can solve problems that can’t be solved in traditional language. 


He found that accessing the creative insights for his project required him to tap into his subconscious mind ( access a parallel universe in his mind). He did this by taking breaks from work and engaging in activities like exercise or walking.


Goss says that the subconscious mind is incredibly powerful and he’d disposed of crazy ideas when he engaged himself in these activities. Goss had a brilliant conscious mind but whenever he’d stuck on a problem, he’d step away from work and activate his subconscious mind. 

That’s all, folks!

The development of mathematical thinking requires patience and a wealth of experience. But once you develop this skill, you’ll soon find yourself seeing the world in a different way and feeling confident in your abilities compared to others around you. This newfound perspective can be a source of pride, leaving you with the thought, “Wow, I have become one of the few people of my generation who possess a high level of competency.”


So, the next time you feel stuck at work and reach that awful feeling of wanting to beat your head against the desk out of frustration, set mathematical thinking strategies to practice.