You’ve probably heard STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) being talked up a lot in the media lately. How they are becoming increasingly more important in today’s society. How we need more women to enter these fields. How they are the coolest people in the world. Alright, that last one might be a stretch.
Recently schools and organizations have been pushing young children to become more interested in science and math, especially girls. As a math major I think I know a thing or two about being a math major. So for anyone considering entering the math world, here are some pros and cons to consider.
Pro: People assume you’re smart.
I am not the kind of person who exudes smartness for many reasons. For example, I add incorrect suffixes to words because I believe they convey my meaning more accuratelier than grammatically correct words. Also, I did not know New Zealand was it’s own country until very recently. I just kind of assumed it was like Australia’s Hawaii. And I just learned that “paradigm” is not pronounced “para-dig-em.” Who knew?
What I’m getting at is no one thinks I am overflowing fountain of genius (which I am) when they first meet me. But once they learn I am a math major they realize I must have some kind of heightened understanding of the universe. Well, actually it’s more like “Wow, a math major? That must be really hard!” That is a completely reasonable response from someone who wouldn’t consider themselves a math major. Whenever I meet a biochemical engineering major or a Japanese literature major, I think, “Holy crap, this person is a genius!”
Bottom line: If you want random English majors to think you’re smart then you should become a math major!
Con: People assume you’re good at math.
I know I just blew your mind with this one because you probably think I am good at math. I’m good at understanding new concepts, getting my homework done, and methodically checking and rechecking my work. I believe the key to being successful at math is establishing good habits at a young age. Whenever someone asks for my help in a math subject I offer these three pieces of advice: 1. Don’t do your math in pen, unless you want a page full of scribbles or you’re one of those people who just likes to watch the world burn. 2. Do your homework everyday because, duh. 3. Write out every step and keep your work neat.
Honestly, if you can follow those steps from the beginning I guarantee math will start making a lot more sense to you. I am terrible at doing mental math. I can’t calculate percentages in my head. I can’t multiply numbers in a second. But give me some paper and a pencil (God help you if it’s a pen) and I will solve any math problem you give me. No, that is a total lie, but I will try my hardest to at least get started. Don’t ask me about geometry because that shit is hard. Don’t ask me about calculus because I have long forgotten how to find limits. Unless you go into engineering or physics you won’t be using calculus the way you learned it. Sure calculus is an integral part of most math subjects, (oh my goodness I am dying right now with that math joke) but I haven’t had to find a derivate in a very long time. So when people ask for help in calculus, I look like a fraud because I have no idea what I am doing. On the bright side though, while I am beginning to doubt all my life decisions, you’ll start to feel much better about your own math abilities.
Bottom line: If you just want to impress people with your incredible mental calculatory skills, well then, you’re an asshole. But also you probably don’t need to be a math major to do that. That kind of pretentiousness is reserved for physic majors. (Ooh burn!)
Pro: You can learn cool math jokes to tell at parties.
I’m not talking about any of those stupid pi jokes. We get it, there’s pi like the number but then you can also eat pie. Ha. Ha. Ha.
I mean real math jokes such as:
Infinitely many mathematicians walk into a bar. The first says, “I’ll have a beer.” The second says, “I’ll have half a beer.” The third says, “I’ll have a quarter of a beer.” The barman pulls out just two beers. The mathematicians are all like, “That’s all you’re giving us? How drunk do you expect us to get on that?” The bartender says, “Come on guys. Know your limits.”
Hahahahaha oh man, that one is a real knee slapper! I am literally wiping tears from my eyes because I am laughing so hard!
Bottom line: If you like reciting jokes you read off of internet forums, then math is the path for you!
Con: You will never be invited to parties because nobody likes your stupid math jokes.
The truth hurts sometimes.
Bottom line: Unless you want all your friends to also be math majors, you might want to reconsider.
Con: “What do you do with a math degree?”
I get asked this question a lot. When I first decided to pursue math I remember googling, “What do you do with a math degree?” The number one answer is always teaching either K-12 or college. So people usually assume I will either go to grad school or become a teacher. I would rather eat my own foot than get a master’s degree in math. Could anything sound less exciting? As for teaching, I’ve always loved children but I’m not good at discipline. They just look so cute with their chubby little faces and missing teeth, how could you ever punish them, even if they were using their friend as a human dry erase board. And once they reach 5th grade, they stop looking so adorable and just start to smell like the human equivalent of a gym sock.
Or you could be a college professor. Even though they’re a little older, they still smell just as bad and they will spend the entire semester arguing over theorems that have long been proven. They just sit there with their stupid hipster facial hair and sensible footwear waiting for the day you make a mistake during a lecture. Then all hell breaks loose and your authority is eternally compromised.
Bottom line: Teachers are very under appreciated. Unless you have no problem with perpetually keeping teaching as Plan B you might not want to go with math.
Pro: You can do just about anything.
At the end of the day, I’m not even really getting a math degree. I am getting a liberal arts degree and I just happened to take a few more math classes than any other subject. Any employer familiar with my school or liberal arts schools in general will look at my resumé and know that I have strong writing skills, exceptional problem solving skills and probably at least basic algebra skills. Now it’s not like I’m going to walk into a law office and say “Me make good lawyer, argue good.” But I could go into finance office and say “I know a lot about numbers.” This website lists popular fields for math nerds and they span a wide range of professions. Right now I’m preparing myself for an actuarial career, but who knows? Cryptography is always an option and I could be a secret agent working for the government. Or maybe I already am……
Bottom line: Math is great and by no means limits you in career choices. As much as I make fun of math and math people, I really do love it. If you are passionate about math then go for it! Especially if you’re a young girl. Follow your dreams, you young, beautiful dreamer!