Why Do I Have To Learn Math?

1/15/2006 03:22:00 pm

I just read an article (Math Will Rock Your World) from Business Week. A few snippets:

Y'wanna get a good job?

But just look at where the mathematicians are now. They're helping to map out advertising campaigns, they're changing the nature of research in newsrooms and in biology labs, and they're enabling marketers to forge new one-on-one relationships with customers. As this occurs, more of the economy falls into the realm of numbers. Says James R. Schatz, chief of the mathematics research group at the National Security Agency: "There has never been a better time to be a mathematician."

Learn math!

How'd ya like a six figure salary?

...new math grads land with six-figure salaries and rich stock deals. Tom Leighton, an entrepreneur and applied math professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says: "All of my students have standing offers at Yahoo! (YHOO) and Google (GOOG)."

Learn math.

D'ya wanna to work on the biggest most cutting edge issues of our day?

This mathematical modeling of humanity promises to be one of the great undertakings of the 21st century. It will grow in scope to include much of the physical world as mathematicians get their hands on new flows of data .... "We turn the world of content into math, and we turn you into math," says Howard Kaushansky, CEO of Boulder (Colo.)-based Umbria Inc., a company that uses math to analyze marketing trends online.

Learn math.

Y'wanna make one of the most significant contributions to the betterment of humanity?

"The next Jonas Salk will be a mathematician, not a doctor."

Learn math.

What are the implications for k-12 education?

Outfitting students with the right quantitative skills is a crucial test facing school boards and education ministries worldwide. This is especially true in America. The U.S. has long leaned on foreigners to provide math talent in universities and corporate research labs. Even in the post-September 11 world, where it is harder for foreigners to get student visas, an estimated half of the 20,000 math grad students now in the U.S. are foreign-born. A similar pattern holds for many other math-based professions, from computer science to engineering.

The challenge facing the U.S. now is twofold. On one hand, the country must breed more top-notch mathematicians at home, especially as foreigners find greater opportunities abroad. This will require revamping education, engaging more girls and ethnic minorities in math, and boosting the number of students who make it through calculus, the gateway for math-based disciplines. "It's critical to the future of our technological society," says Michael Sipser, head of the mathematics department at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At the same time, school districts must cultivate greater math savvy among the broader population to prepare it for a business world in which numbers will pop up continuously. This may well involve extending the math curriculum to include more applied subjects such as statistics.

Learn more math!

"But I don't like math. Besides, I don't need it. I'm going into the humanities or business!"

As mathematicians expand their domain into the humanities, they're working with new data, much of it untested. "It's very possible for people to misplace faith in numbers," says Craig Silverstein, director of technology at Google. The antidote at Google and elsewhere is to put mathematicians on teams with specialists from other disciplines, including the social sciences.

Just as mathematicians need to grapple with human quirks and mysteries, managers and entrepreneurs must bone up on mathematics. Midcareer managers can delegate much of this work to their staffers. But they still must understand enough about math to question the assumptions behind the numbers. "Now it's easier for people to bamboozle someone by having analysis based on lots of data and graphs," says Paul C. Pfleiderer, a finance professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. "We have to train people in business to spot a bogus argument."

Ya gotta learn more math!

Yes, it's a magnificent time to know math.

'Nuff said.

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