Mathematicians and scientists often interchangeably call themselves “mathematicians” and “scientists”. Although they do study different subjects, they also use math to design, test, and analyze experiments. This paper will discuss some characteristics of each discipline. These are also the topics that define each sub-field. Although the topics overlap somewhat, it is better to learn the differences between these three subjects before delving into what is often called “the big picture”.
Mathematicians analyze patterns in the natural world, namely in plants, animals, rocks, or other things around us. They attempt to explain patterns using abstract mathematics such as calculus or algebra. Some mathematically trained people even specialize in a specific area of study such as plant physiology or the dynamics of the climate. A scientist, on the other hand, looks at how things in the natural world are made using observational data and tries to make generalizations about those patterns.
While mathematically trained people can look at the details of nature and make observations that are used to test their hypotheses, a scientist must use his scientific skills to draw general conclusions about the natural world. A statistician, for example, analyzes data and comes up with calculations that can be used to predict future results of events. A climatologist measures changes in the environment and creates models for predicting future climates, while an astronaut takes photos and videos of the earth to learn about the planet’s changing climate. People who study these fields all use a form of mathematics.
Some people study engineering. Engineers design, build, and maintain the modern world. Geologists excavate fossils and evaluate sedimentary layers to learn about the geological history of the Earth. These disciplines all use mathematics to describe how things work and why.
Biology is another of the many science fields that make use of mathematics. For example, the DNA of living organisms is mathematically modeled so that scientists can study its development and determine what species it belongs to. Biologists develop techniques for analyzing the genes of animals to discover their uniqueness and to distinguish between species. In the same way, physicists try to understand the workings of the complex universe through math and physics.
Physicists study the effects of cosmic rays on the earth and how they change the atmosphere. Astronomers map out the paths of stars and use math and astronomy to build telescopes that enable them to see into space. The ocean’s depths and currents are described mathematically by oceanographers as well as geologists because it is important to know how to distinguish between continental drift, regional flow, and the structure of the ocean floor. Many other disciplines in the physical sciences make use of math and other mathematical ideas in their everyday work.
If you want to pursue graduate studies in math, you have a number of options. Most graduate schools now require at least a math degree, although some do not. At the graduate level, most fields of study require knowledge of algebra, statistics, calculus, probability, etc. Other advanced mathematics courses such as finite algebra and calculus may also be required. For a pure math major, math courses in advanced algebra and advanced math courses such as Calculus, Data analysis, Discrete math and Probability are usually required as well.
Math has many applications in society from medicine to business to the military and everything in between. Students interested in math tend to outperform other students in tests of math ability, in the sciences, in the business world and in life sciences. A student with a strong math background benefits from a variety of opportunities. Career opportunities in medicine, business, the military and even education can be obtained by students who demonstrate an interest in math. However, for a pure math major, graduate school can be a difficult path to pursue. For assistance in enrolling in a top-notch graduate program in math, a prospective student should ask an admissions advisor for assistance.