Key Issues

  Key Questions for Mathematics


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Key Questions

For the mathematics community to flourish in this time of change, we must answer a number of key questions. We have collected some writings that address these questions. Some of our quotes come from letters to the President of the University of Rochester, whose decision to cut back the university's math program made urgent the public's need for more definitive answers. Fortunately, the program was reinstated, although there are undoubtedly mathematics departments at other institutions that are attractive targets to cost-cutters.

  Why should the public support mathematics?
    What do we do that is important?

"Can Mathematics Get Its Act Together?" - Leon Seitelman, applied mathematician.

Howard Stein, Professor of Philosophy, University of Chicago.

"What Does the Government Get For Its Investment in Basic Research?" - Joint Policy Board on Mathematics.

"Mathematics is Important and Adds Real Value" - Leon Seitelman, applied mathematician.

"Mathematics is vital to the health and prosperity of the nation" - Leon Seitelman, applied mathematician.

  Why is a research mathematics program necessary for
    graduate science programs?

Jerrold Meinwald, Goldwin Smith Professor of Chemistry, Cornell University.

Stephen Weinberg, Nobel Laureate in Physics.

  Why are we well-suited to teach mathematics to
    scientists and engineers?

Alan Schoenfeld, Professor of Education and Mathematics, UC Berkeley.

How Well Do We Teach Scientists and Engineers? - discussion at the MER Banquet at Orlando

  Why should people major in mathematics? What is
    a math degree good for?

For the entry math gives you to flexibility and to satisfying, well-paying jobs.

The MAA has a page of essays by math grads about what they're doing now.

Exactly How Is Math Used In Technology?, from the Mathematics Department of the British Columbia Institute of Technology, provides examples of math uses in biomedical engineering, food technology, building technology, chemical sciences, civil and structural engineering, graphics and computer-aided drawing (CAD), electronics, environmental health, mechanical engineering, mining technology, nuclear medicine, occupational health, petroleum technology, prosthetics, forestry and wildlife, robotics, and surveying.

  Why should students take mathematics courses?

Tom Davis, Principal Scientist, Silicon Graphics Inc.

Lee Rainwater, Professor of Sociology (retired), Harvard.

Colin Adams, Williams College.

  How can we answer when young students ask,
    "When will I ever use this?" or "What good is math?"

Suggestions from the Ask Dr. Math FAQ file here at the Math Forum.

  What can be done to solve the multi-level problems of mathematics education? How can we best stimulate a productive dialogue among the principals: elementary, middle, high school, and college math teachers, the research community, the education community, parents, concerned citizens, and last, but not least, students? Here's our answer, based on the goals of the Math Forum.

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