What is Mathematics?

Mathematics is the science and study of quality, structure, space, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns, formulate new conjectures, and establish truth by rigorous deduction from appropriately chosen axioms and definitions.

There is debate over whether mathematical objects such as numbers and points exist naturally or are human creations. The mathematician Benjamin Peirce called mathematics "the science that draws necessary conclusions". Albert Einstein, on the other hand, stated that "as far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality."

Through abstraction and logical reasoning mathematics evolved from counting, calculation, measurement, and the systematic study of the shapes and motions of physical objects. Practical mathematics has been a human activity for as far back as written records exist. Rigorous arguments first appeared in Greek mathematics, most notably in Euclid's Elements. Mathematics continued to develop, in fitful bursts, until the Renaissance, when mathematical innovations interacted with new scientific discoveries, leading to an acceleration in research that continues to the present day.

Today, mathematics is used throughout the world as an essential tool in many fields, including natural science, engineering, medicine, and the social sciences. Applied mathematics, the branch of mathematics concerned with application of mathematical knowledge to other fields, inspires and makes use of new mathematical discoveries and sometimes leads to the development of entirely new disciplines. Mathematicians also engage in pure mathematics, or mathematics for its own sake, without having any application in mind, although practical applications for what began as pure mathematics are often discovered later.   


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Why Study Mathematics?

Because it's fun and can prepare you for a variety of excellent careers! If you like solving puzzles and figuring things out, then a mathematics major may interest you. In addition, applications of mathematics are everywhere and a strong background in mathematics can help you in many different careers.

The sections below provide information about careers in mathematics and the opportunities available to our mathematics majors.

The following links are to pages that provide information about the careers available to students of mathematics.

American Mathematical Society

American Statistical Association

This is Statistics

Mathematical Association of America

Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM)

Society of Actuaries

Undergraduate Research
If you are considering graduate school in mathematics, you should think about participating in some research as an undergraduate. There are opportunities to do so with professors in our department or at other institutions during the summer at an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates). REUs are usually four to eight weeks long and typically pay the student a stipend.

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