Mathematics, General

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About the Mathematics Major

It has often said that math is the only universal language. It is also, arguably, one of the most rigorous and demanding intellectual pursuits. So why would you want to be a math major? Many students choose to study math in preparation for a particular career or use in another field. For some students, however, math is simply an art form, and the joy and satisfaction of tackling one of the mind's most extreme challenges is well enough of a reason. 

Math is the study of quantity and anything that can be studied quantitatively, including numbers, data, structure, space, models, and change. Math majors do just what you think they'd do -- lots and lots of math. They focus on developing computational ability and geometric understanding while studying rates of change, slopes, and areas. As students get further in their studies, they begin to study mathematical objects, understanding the relationships between these objects, and developing arguments to verify those relationships.

A math curriculum usually has a strong foundation in calculus. Calculus is a critical tool for most of the sciences and engineering, so students often begin their studies with a few core calculus classes. From there, students often take courses in algebra, which is also essential in an extensive range of mathematics applications. Additional in-depth courses are available in more advanced areas of math, such as statistics, analysis, and theory.

The field of mathematics is loosely divided into two segments, pure mathematics and applied mathematics. Courses in applied mathematics emphasize mathematical theory and problem solving methods in relation to science and engineering. Courses in pure mathematics emphasize the theoretical foundations behind the basics of math, such as algebra and calculus, and also lead the way to more advanced topics in modern mathematics. Some schools tailor their major programs so you can choose which segment you'd rather focus your studies on, and some allow you to take a combination of classes at your discretion. 

Math faculty members are often engaged in original and cutting-edge research projects. As a result, math departments usually have plenty of research and fellowship opportunities for students to take advantage of.

Depending on their career objectives, math majors generally pursue a master's degree or PhD, though there are certainly positions available for those with a bachelor's degree. Those who intend to teach math at the middle or high school level are usually required to complete a bachelor's degree with teacher certification/licensure. Those who plan to teach at the college or university level are usually required to have a PhD.
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