Growing up, I always liked math. I enjoyed the challenge of being faced with a problem and trying to figure out the tools and method needed to solve it. It was cool getting to see how the world around me could be described through the lens of mathematics. Unfortunately, as I reached higher levels of math, the problems we were solving stopped being grounded in real-world problem-solving. Where math used to be asking questions about the speed of a rock rolling down a hill or the number of games played in a baseball tournament, it was now verging into higher dimensions and abstractions that had lost touch with the everyday problems facing people.
While coming into college I had considered being a math major, after taking upper-level classes, I found myself put off by math that seemed so devoid of life. I didn’t care about the volume of a 15th dimensional sphere or how to solve a Diophantine equation. Instead of pursing the traditional theoretical math track, I found refuge in the world of applied mathematics. Here, I was still allowed to ask questions about problems that were relevant to the world around me. I decided to pursue a mathematical-economics major in order to find compromise between my joy for math and my need to have my learning grounded in reality.
These days, I spend a lot of time thinking about the types of problems that people are faced with and the tools that they use to make decisions. I am given the task of trying to use existing information about people and predict their future actions. Math has begun to reprove to me that it is important to the world of real people. With a few relatively simple mathematical tools, I have been able to explore the value of getting a college education for future life success and the value of using the Electoral College to conduct US elections.
I think it is unfortunate that one of the few CC classes specifically focused on applying math to the world is billed as “Not Recommended for Math Majors”. What has been really cool about this class is the variety of experience that everyone brings to the material. Some of my classmates are Political Science majors, others are writers, others of us are here for the math, and some people have no idea what they want to study. Because we all have different ways of viewing the material, we are able to have really interesting conversations that would not happen in other math classes where people only care about the mathematical processes.
The prevailing narrative that math is a defunct subject that tries to be as confusing as possible is just not true. Anyone can benefit from thinking mathematically as is evidenced by this class. For me, the world of applied math has rekindled my love of mathematics, and I hope that for others it can show them that math can be relevant!