What can I do with mathematics?

The entire iris is encoded in about 2000 bits.

Eye-dentifying Yourself

Iris recognition may allow us to live in a world without PIN numbers—identifying ourselves just by looking at the ATM. Identification by iris recognition is based on pattern recognition, wavelets and statistics. The first two fields are used to translate the patterns in your iris into a string of 0s and 1s, while statistics establishes that the scanned iris is yours.

The iris is a good physical feature to use for identification because of the tremendous variability in iris patterns, even between twins. This variability guarantees that a correct identification is made when the code for a scanned iris matches a stored code in at least two-thirds of the bits. Furthermore, the eye and iris are easy for a scanner to find, due to their shape and placement. Once the iris is located, wavelets are used to translate the pattern of the sampled portion of the iris into two bits. These bits reflect the agreement between that portion of the iris and specific wavelets. The entire iris is encoded in about 2000 bits. Finding a relative match between this bit pattern and one of the thousands of iris codes in the database completes the identification. This comparison is done in parallel, so that the whole process takes place in about the blink of an eye.

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“Iris Recognition,” American Scientist, John Daugman

Article © AMS Mathematical Moments program

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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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