What can I do with mathematics?

Bringing Robots to Life

Robots of all shapes and sizes now perform tasks as routine as vacuuming the living room floor and as remarkable as discovering a hydrothermal vent on the ocean floor. Geometry, statistics, graph theory, differential equations, and linear algebra are some of the areas of mathematics that allow navigation and decision making so that robots can function autonomously and do things we either can’t, or would rather not, do.

The robot pictured below not only dances but also greets visitors and escorts them to their destinations, providing news and weather updates along the way. Abilities like these require algorithms for vision, pattern recognition, speech recognition, and dealing with uncertainty so that accumulated error doesn’t render the robot ineffective. Most researchers think that we are a long way from creating machines that behave like humans, but improving algorithms will improve the capabilities of robots, which have already served in space, in rescues at disaster areas, and in the operating room, where physicians use robotic arms that allow for more precise, less invasive surgery.

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Robots, Ruth Aylett

Article © AMS Mathematical Moments program

New: Edgewood College Undergraduate Math Journal

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While the main motivation to choose math as a major should stem from a combination of keen interest and high ability in math, students are naturally concerned about the opportunities available to a mathematics major or a mathematics teaching major after graduation. At this time, the math major appears to be in a better position than many other majors for employment in business, industry, government agencies, and teaching. The prospects are also good for well-qualified students to obtain support for graduate studies in either mathematics or mathematics education. Also a major in mathematics is excellent preparation for further study in many other fields.

In order to help you clarify your thoughts on what you want to get out of your collegiate experience as a math major, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Why do I like mathematics? What is it about math that attracts me to majoring in mathematics?
  • What type of mathematics do I like? Do I like the computational aspect? The rigor and logic? The problem solving experience? The theoretical aspect? Which content areas interest me?
  • What do I want to do for a career? Do I want to teach, or do I want pursue other avenues? If you want to teach, then:
    • what age group(s) do you want to teach? PreK, 1-6, 6-9, 9-12, college?
    • do you want to teach just mathematics, or do you want to have the flexibility to teach other fields as well?
  • If you are not interested in a career in teaching, then: are you interested in a career in business, industry, government, nonprofits, other alternatives?
  • How much education do I want to complete? Bachelors, Masters, or Ph.D.? Do I want to enter the work force right after graduation with the option to pursue graduate work later?
  • What do I need to do in order to further my career prospects?
  • What should I be doing academically to further my goals? Should I pick up a minor in another area? Should I try to double major?
  • What extracurriculars should I become involved in to further my goals? For example, should I get involved with the math club? Should I participate in the MCM Modeling Competition?
  • What types of work experience should I try to get to further my goals? Should I consider volunteer work experiences such as tutoring? Should I consider internships?
  • What organizations should I become involved in? What conferences or meetings might it be helpful to attend?


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