Math - Of Truth and Beauty

Posted by Paula Paine on September 4, 2013 in "Academic Programs", Arizona, Faculty/Staff, Indiana, "Kansas City", Online, "School of Arts and Sciences", "The College", Wisconsin, "Your OU" jeff mccreight01Dr. Jeff McCreight loves all things mathematics. As assistant professor of mathematics and lead faculty for the department at OU, he is able to take the fear that many students have of the subject and mold it into an understanding and appreciation of the discipline’s beauty. Jeff has been an educator in undergraduate mathematics since 1994, having taught the spectrum of undergraduate mathematics courses at three different schools. In 2012, he wrote an article for the Ottawa Spirit that explained why he is so passionate about math. We have republished it below. WHY STUDY MATHEMATICS?  OF TRUTH AND BEAUTY

“Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth but supreme beauty.” These words from British philosopher, mathematician and historian Bertrand Russell effectively summarize the essence of mathematics. But what is this essence? Why do some delight in the intricacies of mathematics while others, if not most, approach it with dread, even fear?

For many, mathematics is nothing more than the manipulation of symbols pushed around a page to obtain a meaningless result to some classroom problem of no importance outside the realm of “learning mathematics.” Counseling from their teachers and others that mathematics is “important” and “useful” is lost on many students as they quickly realize that they can get by without mathematics. It is easy to find quite successful and intelligent people choosing not to study mathematics in the world. Although it is doubtful that anyone would seriously argue against the need for basic math proficiency, why would anyone want to study mathematics beyond the rudimentary levels? “Mathematics is entirely free in its development; its concepts are only linked by the necessity of being consistent, and are coordinate with concepts introduced previously by means of precise definition.” (Georg Cantor). “Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas.” (Albert Einstein) “But mathematics is the sister, as well as the servant, of the arts and is touched with the same madness and genius.” (Harold Morse) “Mathematics knows no races or geographic boundaries; for mathematics, the cultural world is one country.” (David Hilbert) “Mathematics is the supreme judge; from its decisions there is no appeal.” (Tobias Dantzig). “Pure mathematics is the world’s best game.” (Richard Trudeau) According to a recent U.S. Department of Labor statistics report, the 2010 median annual base pay for a mathematician stood at $99,380. Mathematicians work in a variety of arenas, from scientific research, to federal government positions, management and consulting services, to positions at colleges and universities. Graduates with bachelor’s degrees in mathematics become actuaries, computer programmers, system analysts, financial analysts, or market researchers, to name but a few. Mathematicians consistently rank near the top in job satisfaction surveys. All this suggests, perhaps, that the pursuit of an undergraduate degree in mathematics may actually be a worthy endeavor. Mathematics is a world of precision, a world of reason and logic, a world of absolute truth. Mathematics is timeless - what is learned today is not changed tomorrow. Mathematics is universal – it does not vary by culture or geography. Its mysteries are infinite – with each generation bringing new discoveries that build upon those that came before. Mathematics is service to other disciplines – it offers methods and order to an otherwise chaotic and complex world. Mathematics is consistently growing. Mathematics is never old and will forever be in demand. Why would anyone want to study mathematics? Perhaps the better question would be, “Why would anyone not want to study mathematics?” In July 2011, a survey conducted by CBS News found that 16 of the top 20 highest-earning college degrees had a common component: Mathematics. “Today’s data-driven culture coupled with movies like ‘Moneyball’ have made the subject of math more than just a boring subject everyone has to take in high school,” says Vice President of Online Studies Brian Messer. “Today’s organizations, big and small, are looking for individuals who understand the science of problem solving. So we are excited about this very relevant degree program at Ottawa University and have plans to make it even more robust under the great leadership of Dr. Jeff McCreight.” The mathematics program at Ottawa University is a versatile major that provides students with a strong understanding of mathematical thought and knowledge. It strives to build powerful problem solving and analytical thinking skills in students preparing to enter advanced degree programs and/or careers requiring mathematical expertise. A Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics can be earned from Ottawa University at its residential campus in Ottawa, Kansas, or completely online. The online math degree at Ottawa University officially launched in the spring term of 2010. Today, there are more than 80 adult learners pursuing an online mathematics degree with OU. Students at the residential campus may also add an actuarial science concentration in conjunction with a major in business, accounting or mathematics. For more information on Ottawa University’s mathematics program, visit Mathematics-APOS