What can I do with mathematics?

A recent mathematical breakthrough uses topology to analyze any type of music.

Putting Music on
the Map

Mathematics and music have long been closely associated. Now a recent mathematical breakthrough uses topology (a generalization of geometry) to represent musical chords as points in a space called an orbifold, which twists and folds back on itself—much like a Möbius strip does. This representation makes sense musically in that sounds that are far apart in one sense yet similar in another, such as two notes that are an octave apart, are identified in the space.

This latest insight provides a way to analyze any type of music. In the case of Western music, pleasing chords lie near the center of the orbifolds and pleasing melodies are paths that link nearby chords. Yet despite the new connection between music and coordinate geometry, music is still more than a connect-the-dots exercise, just as mathematics is more than addition and multiplication.

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“The Geometry of Musical Chords,” Dmitri Tymoczko, Science, July 7, 2006.

Article © AMS Mathematical Moments program

New: Edgewood College Undergraduate Math Journal

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WHAT CAN I DO WITH A MATHEMATICS MAJOR?

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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