Ruth Gonzalez, a geophysical mathematician at Exxon Production Research CompanyBrought to you by the Association for Women
in Mathematics with support from the Exxon Education Foundation.

What is Mathematics?

Mathematics Creates Opportunities

Mathematics is a powerful tool for solving practical problems and a highly creative field of study, combining logic and precision with intuition and imagination. The basic goal of mathematics is to reveal and explain patterns—whether the pattern appears as electrical impulses in an animal’s nervous system, as fluctuations in stock market prices, or as fine detail of an abstract geometric figure.This may not sound like the mathematics you’re used to. Mathematics can seem to concern only numbers and rules for calculating with them, but in fact it is much more. If you continue to study mathematics, you will discover the creative side of the subject and see how it can be usedto solve important problems. And you will find that studying mathematics can lead to a rewarding, well-paying career.

Mathematics is the Language of Science

With today’s powerful computers, mathematics is being used in science and engineering in unprecedented ways: to plan the path of a robot arm, to model oil reservoirs under the surface of the earth, to make and break secret codes. Mathematicians often work side by side with non- mathematicians, helping them to formulate and solve mathematical problems.Mathematicians also work on abstract problems independent of any practical application—they create new mathematics, build new mathematical structures, unravel new mathematical patterns. Because it grows out of internal motivations to create, this aspect of mathematics is often likened to art. However, even mathematical research developed without reference to real-world problems often ends up being extremely useful in practical situations.Teaching, whether at the school or college level, is an important activity in the careers of many mathematicians. Today, there is an increasing need for educators with excellent training in mathematics. As national leaders call for sweeping reforms in the way mathematics is taught, this is an exciting and challenging time to enter the mathematics education profession.You may have already formulated opinions about what mathematics and mathematicians are like. This booklet will give you the opportunity to meet some real mathematicians and to read about the work they do. See if you can picture yourself with a career in the mathematical sciences!

Table of Contents
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This brochure was published in 1991, so some information may be out-of-date.

Copyright©1991, 2018 Association for Women in Mathematics. All rights reserved.