I talk to a lot of people who think that math is just a string of formulas, equations, and rules that someone just made up. They think that if you want to be good at math, you should memorize all the formulas and follow all the rules, just the way the teacher tells you, and then you get an “A.” Boring! No wonder so many people ask, “When will I ever use this math?”
Luckily math is not just about memorizing formulas and rules. It is about solving new problems and thinking about the world in deep ways. It is about seeing what different things have in common and how to use what you learned on one problem to solve something that looks completely different.
As a teacher, I know a lot of the technical application of the math I teach, but I don’t always have a good, clear answer for my students who want to know “When will I ever use math?” So the BYU Math Department has started this webpage in order to help people—students, teachers, parents, and everyone else—see some of the many ways that math matters in real life.
Math helps with more in life than just saving money on your car insurance. All the theories, procedures, formulas and rules you learn in math help you better understand how the world works, why things are the way they are, and how to change things. It is a key tool for science, engineering, and management. That means math is important if you want to make anything better, faster, or cheaper. In fact, lots of the careers described on this site include people who spend all their time using math to make things better, faster, and cheaper.
In addition to the formulas and rules being useful, learning math is valuable because it develops critical thinking and problem-solving skills—it makes you smarter. Your body gets stronger when you exercise it by running, lifting weights, and jumping rope. Your mind gets stronger when you do math—solving problems, understanding new ideas, and proving theorems. Most athletes don’t lift weights in competition, but having stronger muscles helps you in all your sports. Most people don’t do advanced math for their work, but being smarter helps you in everything you do.
On this website you will find mathematical careers, salaries, and job requirements, but you will also find tips and advice on how to succeed in mathematics, introductions to new mathematical discoveries, and even tidbits on the role math plays in pop-culture. We also have some resources for teachers, parents, and others who want to help people appreciate mathematics.
Finally, we have created some posters, sweat bands, t-shirts, and other materials about math. Most of my students like these just because of the way they look, but teachers can also use them to advertise the many exciting opportunities in mathematics. These are available on this site under the “Resources for teachers” tab.
I hope you like the site. And always remember, the more math you know, the more options you have!
Tyler Jarvis, Chair
BYU Department of Mathematics