What can I do with mathematics?

In almost all cases the success or failure of a bill can be predicted from information derived from two coordinates.

Unearthing Power Lines

Votes are cast by the full membership in each house of Congress, but much of the important maneuvering occurs in committees. Graph theory and linear algebra are two mathematics subjects that have revealed a level of organization in Congress— groups of committees—above the known levels of subcommittees and committees. The result is based on strong connections between certain committees that can be detected by examining their memberships, but which were virtually unknown until uncovered by mathematical analysis.

Mathematics has also been applied to individual congressional voting records. Each legislator’s record is represented in a matrix whose larger dimension is the number of votes cast (which in a House term is approximately 1000). Using eigenvalues and eigenvectors, researchers have shown that the entire collection of votes for a particular Congress can be approximated very well by a two-dimensional space. Thus, for example, in almost all cases the success or failure of a bill can be predicted from information derived from two coordinates. Consequently it turns out that some of the values important in Washington are, in fact, eigenvalues.

Download article

For More Information

Porter, Mason A; Mucha, Peter J.; Newman, M. E. J.; and Warmbrand, Casey M., “A Network Analysis of Committees in the United States House of Representatives,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 102 [2005], No. 20, pp. 7057-7062.

Article © AMS Mathematical Moments program

New: Edgewood College Undergraduate Math Journal

For submission guidelines and other information, please contact Steven Post.



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?


^ Back to Top