What Can I Do with Mathematics and Statistics?

Here's a simple example: deposit $50 every month in an account that gives 4% interest annually. If interest is earned (compounded) monthly, how much is in the account after 2 years (that is, after you have made your 24th deposit)? It is clear that there will be more than 24 × 50=1200, since this is just the total of the deposits, and we know some interest will have been earned. But how much?

To get the correct amount we need a precise way of describing how the final amount depends on the number of deposits. That's what formulas are for!

Here it is: amount in the account after the k-th deposit = 50 × ( (1+0.04/12)^k -1 ) / (0.04/12)
For k=24, we get that there is $1247.14 in the account, which implies that $47.14 was earned in interest.

This simple example illustrates the power and utility of mathematics: it helps us describe precise relationships between quantitative things. And those are plentiful in real life, so pretty much any field that involves quantitative information requires mathematics. Therefore, when you study mathematics, your knowledge will have applicability across many fields. Anyone who understands the formula describing a relationship between quantities is already ahead in the game!

But formulas are just a part of mathematics. Rigorous training in mathematics sharpens your logic and critical thinking skills, and you are better able to see connections between things: which one is true, which one false, which one is the cause, which one the effect, and which one is irrelevant. Mathematicians like to boast "if you understand mathematics, you can do anything!", and they exaggerate only a little.

In this area you can learn more about careers for which mathematics or statistics are essential or use it to a great degree. Follow the links at left.

A vising mathematician who works in industry once spoke at Murray State on the utility of mathematics in industry. Here are some excerpts from his talk.