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Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month: An Expert's Advocacy Guide

Mathematics and statistics are essential skills for many professions today. From engineering to finance to medicine, these fields rely heavily on mathematical concepts and data analysis.

It is also a part of everyday life, and, for many people, it is part of their primary education: “The mathematics you learn from kindergarten through 12th grade are the building blocks necessary for advanced mathematics. It does tend to get more abstract and can be more computationally the longer you study it, but it is all math,” shares Dr. Catherine A. Roberts, the executive director of the American Mathematical Society (AMS).

Some may feel that math is complicated or intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be. “When I teach mathematics, I make analogies to language learning because that can be more familiar to students. Mathematics is a second language that we can use to describe the world and relationships among objects, whether we’re creating them in our imagination or whether they’re actual objects that we see physically,” says Dr. Roberts.

To increase awareness around the importance of this field, April is designated as Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month. This month is an opportunity to learn more about math, get to know the people who are making history in this field, and celebrate the advances that math and statistics have made.

“One of the big advances is our progress in understanding chaos and chaos theory,” shares Dr. Roberts. Chaos theory studies how small, early changes can result in big changes later on. It’s like throwing a pebble into a pond: even though it was just one pebble, it causes ripples that spread outward and make big waves. In chaos theory, this idea is applied to many systems, from weather patterns to stock markets. It’s used to understand why unexpected things happen and how minor differences can strongly affect the outcome.

Keep reading to learn about ways to get involved in Math and Statistics Awareness Month, potential careers, and advice on how to get started in this field.

Meet the Expert: Catherine Roberts, PhD

Catherine Roberts

Dr. Catherine A. Roberts is an American applied mathematician, the executive director of the American Mathematical Society (AMS), and a professor of mathematics at the College of the Holy Cross. She earned her doctorate in applied mathematics from Northwestern University in 1992. Her research in applied mathematics has focused on nonlinear Volterra equations with natural resource modeling. In addition to her work with the AMS, she serves on multiple boards related to mathematics education and research.

Dr. Roberts is passionate about making mathematics accessible to everyone and believes it should be part of every student’s education. She is committed to promoting diversity within mathematics by encouraging more women and people from underrepresented groups to pursue careers in math-related fields.

The Importance of Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month

Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month is celebrated every year in April. It is a great time to celebrate the impact of mathematics and statistics in daily life, from everyday activities such as banking and budgeting to the most cutting-edge research. “It was established to help increase awareness that mathematics is everywhere and that it’s a really important ingredient to so many things that humans do every day,” explains Dr. Roberts.

This event began in 1986, when President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation for National Mathematics Awareness Week. Since then, the event has become a full month of celebration and appreciation for mathematics and statistics. This month’s goal is to increase the level of interest and understanding of mathematics and statistics among students, teachers, and the general public. Lectures, seminars, workshops, contests, and other events are held to help promote math and statistics education.

There are many ways for people to get involved with this month: “If you’re curious and want to learn more about mathematics, then visit the websites of the math professional societies because they’re very much engaged in increasing awareness. The American Mathematical Society has a list of a dozen or more posters that celebrate women, African Americans, and Latinos in mathematics. They are great for classrooms, libraries, or anywhere you want to raise awareness about math,” encourages Dr. Roberts.

Making math more approachable can help ease people’s anxiety around the subject. Activities put on by professional math associations are an easy way to learn more about math in a low-stakes environment. “There are webinars different professional societies put out there and fun math competitions for all kids of all ages,” she shares.

Careers in Mathematics and Statistics

A degree in math or statistics can lead to a promising career in several fields: “A degree in math is really helpful if you’re going to start any kind of a business because you’ll have good problem-solving skills. Medical schools and law schools love considering an application from a math major because, while you won’t actually use mathematics per se, you’ve trained your thinking to be successful at solving open-ended problems that don’t have obvious solutions,” she adds.

Here are three careers where professionals with undergraduate or graduate math degrees can excel.

Become a Math Teacher

A career teaching math is an excellent choice for math and statistics degree holders because it allows them to share their knowledge and passion for the subject with others. Math teachers have the opportunity to help students develop valuable problem-solving skills, critical thinking abilities, and a deep understanding of mathematical concepts that can be applied in everyday life: “We need excellent school teachers for mathematics, so if you like teaching, explaining things, and helping people learn, this is a great option,” recommends Dr. Roberts.

Become an Engineer

Engineering can also be a great career for math and statistics students. Engineering provides an ideal platform to apply mathematics and statistics in meaningful ways, such as developing innovative solutions to real-world challenges, designing and building infrastructure such as bridges and skyscrapers, and creating new products or technology.

A career in engineering also offers excellent job security, a competitive salary, and the chance to work on projects with global impact.

Become a Data Scientist

Data science requires a deep understanding of mathematics and statistics, which makes it an ideal fit for graduates with these backgrounds. A career in data science also provides the opportunity to solve complex problems using large datasets and gain valuable experience working with AI or machine learning. This field also offers the chance to work with some of the most cutting-edge technology in today’s world.

Online Mathematics and Statistics Training Programs to Consider

Here are three online education options for those wanting to further their education in mathematics and statistics.

University of North Dakota

The University of North Dakota offers a bachelor of science in mathematics on-campus and online. This accredited online program provides students with the knowledge they need to gain mathematics, statistics, and computer science skills. Students will learn the fundamentals of calculus, linear algebra, probability and statistics, numerical analysis, and more.

This program offers students the opportunity to participate in specialized tutoring programs, hear from experts in the field through our visiting speaker series, join the Math Club to get to know other students, and take advantage of individualized math help in the Math Active Learning Lab (MALL). Many graduates pursue additional studies in education, law, medicine, and science.

  • Location: Grand Forks, ND
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $577.32 per credit

Southern New Hampshire University

This online bachelor of science in mathematics can be completed in four years of full-time study. Students learn to analyze and solve problems across various areas, construct and present solutions effectively, and use logical mathematical proofs to solve real-world problems. Courses are accessible at all times and include helpful learning resources along the way. Graduates of this program pursue careers in education, finance, data science, management, research, and more.

This program offers an option for a concentration in applied mathematics through which students will learn about commonly used statistical methods and techniques, mathematical modeling, cutting-edge software tools for visualizing constructed models, operations research, and dynamical modeling, as well as the role of mathematics in scientific research and industry. A final research project is also included to give learners further hands-on experience.

  • Location: Manchester, NH
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Tuition: $320 per credit

University of Washington

At the University of Washington, students can complete an online master of science in applied and computational mathematics. This top-ranked degree program prepares students for successful and rewarding careers in various fields. With an interdisciplinary focus, this course provides a comprehensive understanding of mathematical processes that are key across many scientific disciplines, including physical science, engineering, and biology.

The flexible online format of this degree ensures students can complete their studies at their pace without having to relocate. Required courses include mathematical methods, applied analysis, numerical analysis and scientific computing, climate modeling, mathematical biology, and mathematical finance.

  • Location: Seattle, WA
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Tuition: $880 per credit

Advice and Resources for Starting a Career in Mathematics and Statistics

Math and statistics are sought-after skill sets, offering many job opportunities across industries: “Studying mathematics opens you up for any career. If you want a career where you’re using mathematics directly or indirectly, my advice is to take as many math courses as you can, along with statistics and computer science courses,” advises Dr. Roberts.

However, taking courses outside the norm for math students can be advantageous: “If you like the way mathematics is applied and like the idea of using mathematics to solve problems, then also study an area where you want to solve problems. That might be environmental studies, or you might want to take law or engineering courses. I think it’s best to not focus exclusively on mathematics itself but to think about what other subjects you’re interested in,” suggests Dr. Roberts.

While there are stereotypes about who mathematicians are, they don’t hold up. “You don’t have to be a genius to be a successful mathematician. Mathematics is for everyone. If you came to a math conference, you would see people of all ages and backgrounds representing all kinds of different groups. It’s a much more diverse and welcoming field than some might assume,” offers Dr. Roberts. “You don’t need a PhD, and you don’t need to be a math major to have a career in math. Anybody interested in math should explore and have fun with it.”

Here are some resources for those looking to start a career in mathematics and statistics:

Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson is a freelance writer with extensive experience writing about healthcare careers and education. She has worked in public health, at health-focused nonprofits, and as a Spanish interpreter for doctor’s offices and hospitals. She has a passion for learning and that drives her to stay up to date on the latest trends in healthcare. When not writing or researching, she can be found pursuing her passions of nutrition and an active outdoors lifestyle.