Mathematics/Related College Career: Advice for Juniors & Seniors
By Salma Zaghloul,
Secretary of the iCademy High School Student Council
What should you keep in mind if you want to study mathematics in college? Math is undoubtedly one of the most versatile subjects in higher education; it’s no surprise that many colleges survey students’ aptitude in maths at school and further education in the application process before forming decisions. Mathematical teachings can be a foundation for study in countless subjects such as computer science, engineering, economics, accountancy, management studies, and medicine.
I reached out to several wonderful iCademy math teachers and asked for advice they would give to students looking to pursue math-related fields in college.
My first contact was Mr. Richard Mistretta, who highlighted the importance of researching the field thoroughly before deciding to pursue it: “It's not enough to simply say ‘I love mathematics’ or simply say ‘I want to be a math major’, you need to thoroughly research what opportunities within mathematics are available to you and consider what intrigues you in that field. One important resource for your choice is to utilize the "Career Cluster" approach. There a number of websites that you can peruse that contain various opportunities within mathematics that you might have never even considered.
Here is an example of just one of those sites: https://careerwise.minnstate.edu/careers/clusters.html.”
On how the pursuance of a math-related major paves the way for excellent future career opportunities, Mrs. Kara Huskey mentioned, “The skills that you learn in math are ones that so many industries really value and are willing to pay good money for.
“(1) It makes you a problem solver. (No one wants to hire a problem creator, but a problem solver - that's marketable.)
(2) It builds analytical skills. Lots of businesses know that things may not be working the way they would like, so they will pay someone who could analyze the process and find the areas that need improvement. (3) Insurance companies pay actuaries big money to figure out life expectancy tables and to calculate premium rates. (4) Pharmaceutical companies will pay statisticians very well to run the stats from their clinical trials. They can't get FDA approval without the data analysis. (5) Engineering - all types - runs on math. (6) Airline pilots and all navigation is founded in trigonometry. (7) In tech, data encryption is, essentially, number patterns or alpha-numeric sequencing.
All code is based on logic. Network analysis? We can thank Leonard Euler for those theories. (8) Sports? Watch "Money Ball" - data and stats run the business side of every professional sport. Have you ever watched a pit crew of a Racing Team? There is always some person on a computer doing the analysis of engine performance, driver reaction times, and track conditions.
“Math becomes fundamental to so many fields. Not many students often major in pure mathematics because they think that it means being a university professor or doing pure research in math theory; but, what they don't realize is that a degree in mathematics means that any field that has data, numbers, or analysis would gladly hire them.”
I also reached out to Mrs. Jennifer Connor, who emphasized how “earning a degree in mathematics can lead to many job opportunities that go beyond teaching and academia. Mathematics and computational science are utilized in almost every discipline in science, engineering, industry, and technology. In addition, math courses strengthen and develop one’s critical thinking and problem-solving skills which are essential in any career.”
On what students should expect upon undertaking a math major, Mrs. Connor stated, “If you do select a mathematics degree program, you will complete a variety of exciting and challenging courses that are both rigorous and rewarding! As you progress through the program you will likely find a field of mathematics you enjoy most and then focus your courses to center on this area of interest.
“Also, earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics will allow you the opportunity to select from numerous higher degree programs or training programs to further specialize your skills and make you a strong candidate for employment. The possibilities are endless with a mathematics degree!”
Finally, Mrs. Sue Bolstad recollected an amusing story that outlines one essential piece of advice that not only applies to students pursuing a math field, but all prospective college students: “I have a funny story which happened to me on several occasions. I would do homework after spending the day in school, and I also worked after school; so, I would come home at night and try to do a complex problem. I specifically remember that I was working on a modern Geometry proof and I was stuck. I spent several hours on it. Finally, I realized that I needed sleep or I would not function well the next day. So I went to bed and three hours later I woke up with the solution. I jumped out of bed and wrote it down. It was actually quite simple but I must have been so tired that my brain was not functioning. Moral to the story is to get plenty of sleep. College students tend to lose track of time and they take the time out of their sleep to compensate. The brain needs to rest.”
All in all, Mrs. Huskey advised, “If you're not sure on what field you'd like to work in, or maybe you'd like the opportunity to try multiple different fields, math is a key that unlocks lots of doors.”
A special thank you to Mr. Mistretta, Mrs. Huskey, Mrs. Connor, and Mrs. Bolstad