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Why would anyone ever study mathematics?

Posted in Engineering, Labs
By Frank Thomas on November 11, 2013

The eternal questions that follow nearly all students of the discipline of mathematics: “why would you ever study math? What on earth would you ever do with a math degree? When do you start teachers’ college?” Each question is more infuriating than the last. But over the years I grew to understand why people ask these questions – they aren’t aware of the real-world use cases and don’t realize that behind every scientific theory and technological innovation are concepts that are built upon mathematics. For example without probability and linear algebra, Google would not exist. Without partial differential equations and statistics, we wouldn’t be able to complain about the weather guy or gal’s incorrect forecasts. The list goes on…

So why would somebody study math? I mentioned a couple of its applications (which is often reason enough) and that it forms the basis of many fields of study however I believe that it goes much beyond that. For people who enjoy challenges, there are no shortages of them in both academia and in the industry. There is a lot of variety in mathematics. From the various sub-disciplines to the many ways in which one can apply the same theories to different problems, it’s difficult for a mathematician to become bored. What was my motivation for studying math? I feel that the most powerful toolset a person can possess is their ability to think their way through difficult problems in a clear, logical, and concise manner. The study of mathematics allows a person to develop that toolset and apply it in a powerful way to any sort of problem.

Mathematics is being applied to the ever-increasing volumes of data that previously were unavailable. With the advent of big data technologies, fields such as data science (the application of math and stats to data) are able to prosper and generate real value from what was previously considered noise. As time is progressing, the need for expert mathematicians and data scientists is growing exponentially while we attempt to harness the power of big data.