CSUSB Advising

Ep. 28 - What is the Math major?

May 30, 2022 Season 1 Episode 28
CSUSB Advising
Ep. 28 - What is the Math major?
Show Notes Transcript

In Episode 28 of the CSUSB Advising Podcast, Matt Markin chats with Math Department Chair, Dr. Madeleine Jetter! What is the Mathematics major? What career opportunities are there? What resources does the Math Department have? Find out in this episode!

For more information on the Math major, visit the Math Department website.

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Hey, welcome back to the CSUSB has to be advising podcast on this episode, we're going to find out more about the mathematics major at CSU SB. So I'd like to introduce our guest for this episode, and that is math chair, Dr. Madeline Jetter. Dr Jetter. How are you today? Very good. Thank you. And thank you for being on this podcast.

And you know, we're looking forward to hearing a lot more about your major and what it involves, uh, careers that maybe students might be able to get into, especially students that are interested in maybe declaring math as. Or maybe changing from one major to math. So before we jump into that, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Uh, sure. So I grew up in Northern California and, um, I got to go to college in New York city in the summer before my senior year of college. Um, I got to participate in a math research project with a professor, um, and that was an Indiana. And, um, my mentor, they are provided a lot of encouragement to go to graduate school, which I had not thought of myself as.

Graduate school material for, so that, that was a big aha for me. And you receiving that encouragement was enough for me to put myself out there and apply for graduate programs. So I did come back to California and attended graduate school in math at UCLA. And, um, you know, when you think of graduate school, you probably expect to learn really advanced material.

And I did do that, but then the other big aha for me in graduate school was, um, you know, working with a group in the math department that was, um, working with teachers and finding out, um, just how much depth and how much complexity there really is to the math that we're taught in elementary school.

Which you, we think of it sometimes as simple math, but there's just so much going on there. Um, that it, it became really interesting to me. So that started in interest in teacher education. So after I finished my program at UCLA, I was lucky enough to get a job in the math department here at CSU SB, um, where I've been involved in teaching math for future teachers.

Um, and that's something that I really love. And yeah, I've been a faculty member here at CSU SB for 15 years. Um, along the way I met and married my partner and we live in Redlands with a seven year old. And I think it's good to hear your background because you had mentors, you had people that encouraged you, um, that you maybe you didn't think about going down a certain path and then ended up getting there and then get into UCLA and getting the CSU USB.

So I think it's always nice hearing, like your background and sharing that. Now let's jump into the math major. How would you describe the mathematics major at CSU? Is. Okay. So our programs are designed for students who either plan to enter a career in math or a related field, um, or pursue teaching math or possibly pursue graduate study in math.

Um, so what a lot of people think about math, they probably think our procedures. So, you know, maybe like solving a qualdratic equation, um, and the procedures are in there. Uh, but we also really strongly emphasized the conceptual understanding the problem solving and communicating your reasoning. Yeah. And so I'm glad that you talked about how, like it's, it could be teaching, but it could be other, other areas that, and not just teaching, because I think that sometimes that might be a misconception is that, oh, math is just going to be for teaching, um, which you want to be a teacher.

Awesome. Are there any concentrations within. Yeah. So we have, uh, uh, bachelor of arts and we also offer a bachelor of science with three concentrations. So I'll start with the, the BA. So the BA is intended for students who plan to enter a career involving math, uh, maybe pursue graduate study in math, and they want room in their program to pursue study in some other subject, or maybe minor in another.

Uh, because the BA includes fewer units in it than any of our bachelor of science concentrations. Um, the bachelor of science offers three concentrations. So the general math concentration is designed for students who plan to pursue graduate study in mathematics primarily. Um, we also have an applied mathematics concentration, um, mainly for those interested in an entering a career in mathematics or a related field.

And we also have a teaching mathematics concentrating. For those who plan to become middle school or high school mathematics teachers. And of course, a lot of a question that comes up a lot is, okay, what could I do with certain majors in terms of career opportunities? So not necessarily that this is going to be like, you can only do certain things with a certain concentration, you know, but are there any careers that, you know, some of your graduates, some of your students have gone into with some of these concentrated.

Yeah. So one career option, you know, we've mentioned already that many of our students pursue is middle or high school teaching. Um, and certainly the best preparation for that is our math BS with the teaching mathematics concentration, um, outside of teaching, um, a strong foundation in math can prepare you for lots of different careers.

Um, this could include careers in the insurance industry. Um, so for example, you, a lot of students with good math preparation, um, become actuaries. Um, you working for insurance companies, um, there are jobs in other areas of finance that require a strong mathematics preparation. Um, and there are lots of good jobs that involve skills in data analysis that you can acquire through, um, through.

Some of our students, especially the ones that continue, um, and complete master's study, um, get jobs in the department of defense or maybe in the defense industry. Also many of our students came to us from a community college and some of those students found the experience of community college really life-changing for them.

And they decide they want to give back as community college, teachers of mathematics. Um, so for those. The BS general math concentration is a good choice to prepare for master's study and then, um, become prepared, um, you for careers, teaching community college mathematics, but then also there are some really wonderful careers that probably have not been.

Invented yet. Um, when you complete a math major, you can show, um, you can show employers that you developed some really solid problem solving skills. Also the ability to communicate complex information and that's valuable and a lot of different areas. Yeah, definitely strong skills there. And does, within the math department, you talked about the bachelor's, the BA and the BS.

Um, do you also offer a minor in. We do offer a minor and you, another minor that we've just developed is a minor in statistics. So those that may be interested in those careers involving data analysis. Um, you may want to consider that that minor in statistics. Nice. And let's say a student is interested in that.

They know for sure they want to do math as their, their major. They want to declare math, but maybe they're unsure of like the concentration they want to do. Do you have any suggestions for that student? Well, um, I would point out that the lower division core is very similar in all of our programs. So you, as four semesters of calculus, it's a 2000 level statistics course and a programming course used to, if you start with calculus, if you're ready for.

Or preparation for calculus. Um, you're on your way. Um, you and, and those courses are applicable in all of them after programs. Um, and you can also use the GE the program to help you kind of explore your interest and decide, um, you know, what concentration might be the best for you. So, yeah, let's say you complete your science, GE coursework, and you realize, you know, you want to study math.

Some other science project, uh, sorry, some other science subjects. So maybe you want to study, um, math and biology or you math and you also want to do a lot of hurdles. Or, um, you, maybe you want to study math and, um, you also a significant amount of coursework and economics. Um, you as to if, if that interests you, you might be interested in the math vs um, applied math concentration at which allows you to choose two or three more, um, you science or economics courses.

Um, in addition to the, the math curriculum, or you might choose a math BA with a minor in another. I would also say if you're trying to decide whether the teaching concentration is, is right for you, I would really encourage you to explore, um, the Thomas scholarship. So each time stands for early teaching experiences in math and science, and it's, it's an opportunity to, um, you know, spend time in, um, math classrooms.

You get placed in a cohort with other students studying your subject. Um, you study the curriculum. Um, in math, you design a, an activity that you actually get to try out in a classroom and take notes on how it goes. Um, so some students go through that experience and then decide, you know, okay, I don't want to be a teacher.

And we think that's a good outcome, you know, for the program because you, we don't want you to go through an entire teaching concentration and it's hard credential program, and then realized that this is not the. Um, others go through that scholarship and realize that it's, it's really exciting. And then they want more of.

Um, and so, you know, for those students, they can go forward in their program knowing that it's it's right for them. Um, so that can be a really good experience for students. And you that's for, um, you majors in math or other science subjects. And then just generally, I mean, I would, I would suggest visiting the career center and just find out about careers that you're interested in and that information then can help you in choosing your concentration.

Yeah, 100%. And you were mentioning, uh, calculus. So, um, is that usually the first math class that ends up counting for the math major? Yeah. So calculus one, um, or on our campus, we call it math 2210. That's the first math class that counts towards the major requirements in math. Um, some students aren't ready for calculus in their first semester on campus, and instead they would start with preparation for college.

Um, you can still be very successful in the major by starting with preparation for calculus. If that is the best first math class for you. In fact, you are outstanding undergraduate this year. You was a student who started in preparation for calculus and you, as she finished on time, you, she took some, um, summer.

Um, and she was very successful in the major. So, you know, the important thing is really to make sure you're prepared for the class you enroll in and you stay enrolled in math consistently so that you can keep making. Yeah. And I'm glad that you mentioned that about that student, because that question we get a lot too is, and we'll have to start in like a certain class as a prerequisite for the next class.

Is that going to delay the time, you know, for me to graduate. But in this case, he mentioned that they started with that prep course did summer, and they were still able to graduate in a timely manner. And what our students, not that you have to describe what they're learning in all their classes, but maybe some of the beginning classes, what are some of the things that students are learning?

I mean, so I'll just say you generally, um, you many classes, especially in the lower division, you, you will see your procedural piece. So in calculus you might spend some time calculate. Derivatives. Right. And that gives you information about the rate of change you have, you know, some function or some process, um, you're often connected to real life.

Um, and yeah, in, in most of our classes though, that procedural piece, isn't the only piece. And often it isn't the most important piece that we really want you to know. Um, if it were all about performing calculations, We could let computers do it all. Um, so the conceptual piece is also really important and you, we want you to understand why those calculations work, um, what the result really means.

Um, we want you to be able to explain your result, you know, with an equation, with a picture verbally. Um, we want you to gain really strong problem solving skills, um, and be able to decide, you know, does a procedure help you solve that problem? Or can you maybe solve that problem more efficiently with a different procedure or even with no procedure.

Um, and we want you to be able to communicate your reasoning about all of these. And we've talked earlier about maybe one of the misconceptions might be when a student hears math, they think immediately teaching, but are there any misconceptions, are there misconceptions that students might have about the mathematics major?

Yeah, I would say there are just some misconceptions about math in general that also applied to the math major. So one of them definitely is that math is all about performing calculations. Um, so again, I mean, if it were just performing calculations, you a computer could just do it. And that wouldn't be a very interesting major.

Um, I mean, other times, you know, students might think that if they take math, then they can afford writing. Um, but again, communication is. Such a huge piece of the major, um, and our, um, introduction to the upper division, math 3,100 is a writing intensive course. Um, that gives you some really intensive preparation in reading proofs, understanding proofs and writing mathematical proofs.

Thank you for that. And you know, you were mentioned earlier about the  scholarship. Are there any other resources that your department offers? Whether it's like clubs, tutoring, other scholarships, So one resource I would definitely recommend is math club. So that's a student organization registered with ASI.

Um, they organize lots of social events for students to get together. Um, at times they have sponsored field trips to, um, local math conferences. Um, so that kind of helps build a sense of, um, a math community. For students on the campus and, and that can be really, um, really important for students. Um, you know, so we value that and, you know, we really encourage students to seek out math club.

Um, we also offer math gym, which is a peer tutoring center. And so they tutor in, um, you're primarily the upper division, um, major courses. Um, tutoring also is available in the lower division. Math courses as well. Um, you, so that's a very good resource to support student success and the math courses. And then also, you know, if you find that you're successful in your courses, um, you can apply to work as a math tutor and that's another really good teaching experience that can help you.

Um, you know, test out whether a teaching career, either at the high school or the college level would be, um, a good fit for you. Um, and then just related against that ETM scholarship, you, those who are interested in teaching math, um, should check out our center for enhancement of math education, um, or see me, um, which offers lots of programs, um, to support teachers and future teachers, um, in math.

Wonderful. And, you know, we're recording this, uh, towards the end of may. Is there anything that your department has been up to lately? Well, I mean, it's been a pretty busy year know as it's been for, for most of us. Um, you know, we recently, as I mentioned, uh, developed a statistics minor and so that's a really nice option for students interested in developing their skills in data analysis.

Um, so that's probably our biggest news recently, other than just making it through the year. You know, when you get to late may it's, it's about survival a lot of the times. Yup. Just surviving it. And then I'll also thinking about, okay, if we got a new group of students coming in for the fall and getting ready for orientation, and then last question would be, if a student has a question, like, let's say they are interested in math.

Um, of course they have. Like their professional advisor or staff advisor they might be able to connect with, but they have more specific questions. Um, do they, would they go to your website or contact your. Um, they can go to the math department website. We also have an advising tab on the department website that provides a lot of resources about the math major.

Um, they can also email, um, the math office. And so that's a really easy email address. So it's. At CSU sb.edu. Um, that goes to all three of our office staff, um, here in the math department. And, you know, they can forward request as needed or, you know, take care of any requests that come through that, um, that email address.

All right, sounds good. Dr. Jetter, thank you so much for being on the podcast today. Oh, glad to be here. Thank you. .