CSUSB Advising Podcast

Ep. 28 - What is the Math major?

May 30, 2022 Season 1 Episode 28
CSUSB Advising Podcast
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 Yotes, welcome back to the CSUSB advising podcast. On this episode, we're going to find out more about the mathematics major at CSUSB. So I'd like to introduce our guests for this episode. And that is math chair, Dr. Madeleine 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, careers that maybe students might be able to get into, especially students that are interested in maybe declaring math as their major, or maybe changing from one major to math. So, before we jump into that, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure. So I grew up in Northern California, and I got to go to college in New York City. In the summer, before my senior year of college, I got to participate in a math research project with a professor that was in Indiana. And my mentor, they are provided a lot of encouragement to go to graduate school, which your 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, you know, put myself out there and apply for graduate programs. Yeah, so I did come back to California and attended graduate school in math at UCLA. And, 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 you working with a group in the math department that was working with teachers, and finding out 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, that it became really interesting to me. So that started an 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 CSUSB, where I've been involved in teaching math for future teachers. And that's something that I really love to do. And yeah, I've been a faculty member here at CSUSB for 15 years. 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 that you maybe even think about going down a certain path, and then ended up getting there and then getting into UCLA and getting into CSUSB. 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 CSUSB?

Okay, so our programs are designed for students who either plan to enter a career in math or a related field, or pursue teaching math or possibly pursue graduate study in math. So what a lot of people think about math, they probably think of procedures. So you maybe like solving a quadratic equation, and the procedures are in there. But we also really strongly emphasize 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 are not just teaching because I think that sometimes that might be a misconception is that oh, math is just going to be for teaching. But you want to be a teacher, awesome. Are there any concentrations within math?

Yeah, so we have a 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, maybe pursue graduate study in math, and they want room in their program to pursue study in some other subjects, or maybe minor in another subject, because the BA includes fewer units in it than any of our Bachelor of Science concentrations. 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. We also have an Applied Mathematics concentration, mainly for those interested in in entering a career in mathematics or related field. And we also have a teaching mathematics concentration for those who plan to become middle school or high school mathematics teachers.

And of course, a lot of 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 concentrations?

Yeah, so one career option here we've mentioned already that many of our students pursue is middle or high school teaching, and certainly the best preparation for that is is our math BS with the teaching mathematics concentration. Outside of teaching, a strong foundation in math can prepare you for lots of different careers. This could include careers in the insurance industry. So for example, you have a lot of students with good math preparation become actuaries, you working for insurance companies, there are jobs in other areas of finance that require a strong mathematics preparation. And there are lots of good jobs that involve skills in data analysis that you can acquire through through our programs. Some of our students, especially the ones that continue and complete Master's study, 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. So for those students, the BS, general math concentration is a good choice to prepare for Masters study, and then become prepared you for careers teaching community college mathematics. But then also, there are some really wonderful careers that probably have not been invented yet. When you complete a math major, you can show you can show employers that you develop some really solid problem solving skills, also the ability to communicate complex information. And that's valuable in a lot of different areas.

Yeah, definitely strong skills there. And does within the math department, you talked about the bachelors, a BA in the BS, do you also offer a minor in math?

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, you may want to consider that that minor in statistics.

Nice. And let's say student is interested in the 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, I would point out that the lower division core is very similar in all of our programs. So you is four semesters of calculus, it's a 2000 level statistics course, and a programming course, yes. So if you start with calculus, if you're ready for it, or preparation for calculus, you're on your way. You and and those courses are applicable in all of them after programs. And you can also use the GE program to help you kind of explore your interest and decide, you know, what concentration might be the best for you. So, you know, let's say you complete your science GE coursework and you realize you want to study math and some other science project. Sorry, some other science subjects. So maybe you want to study math and biology, or math and you also want to do a lot of programming. Or you maybe you want to study math, and you also have significant amount of coursework in economics. So if if that interests you, you might be interested in the math, yes, Applied Math concentration, which allows you to choose two or three more science or economics courses, in addition to the the math curriculum. Or you might choose a math BA with a minor in another subject. I would also say if you're trying to decide whether the teaching concentration is right for you, I would really encourage you to explore the ETEMS scholarship. So ETEMS stands for early teaching experiences in math and science. And it's it's an opportunity to spend time in math classrooms. You get placed in a cohort with other students studying your subject. You study the curriculum, in math, you design an activity that you actually get to try out in a classroom and take notes on how it goes. 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 an entire credential program and then realize that this is not the career for you. Others go through that scholarship and realize that it's, it's really exciting, and they want more of that. And so, for those students, they can go forward in their program, knowing that it's, it's right for them. So that can be a really good experience for students and that's for you majoring 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 to.

Yeah. 100%. And you were mentioning calculus. So is that usually the first math class that ends up counting for the math major?

Yeah, so calculus one, or on our campus, we call it math 2210. That's the first math class that counts towards the major requirements in math. Some students aren't ready for calculus in their first semester on campus and instead, they would start with preparation for calculus. 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, are outstanding undergraduate this year, you was a student who started in preparation for calculus. And yes, she finished on time. Yes, she took some summer school and she was very successful in the major. So 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 progress.

Yeah, and I'm glad that you mentioned that about that student, because that question we get a lot too is I will 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 are 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?

So I'll just say generally, you know, many classes, especially in the lower division, you will see a procedural piece. So in calculus, you might spend some time calculating derivatives, right. And that gives you information about the rate of change, of some function or some process, you often connected to real life. 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. If it were all about performing calculations, we could let computers do it all. So the conceptual piece is also really important. And you we want you to understand why those calculations work, what the result really means. We want you to be able to explain your result with an equation with a picture verbally. We want you to gain really strong problems solving skills, and be able to decide does the procedure help you solve that problem. Or can you maybe solve that problem more efficiently with a different procedure or even with no procedure? And we want you to be able to communicate your reasoning about all these things.

And we talked earlier about maybe one of the misconceptions might be when a student hears math, they think immediately teaching, but are there any misconceptions out 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 apply to the math major. So one of them definitely is that math is all about performing calculations. So again, I mean, if it were just performing calculations, your computer could just do it. And that wouldn't be a very interesting major. I mean, other times, you know, students might think that if they take math, then they can avoid writing. But again, communication is such a huge piece of the major. And our introduction to the upper division, math 3100 is a writing intensive course that gives you some really intensive preparation and reading proofs, understanding proofs and writing mathematical proofs.

Thank you for that. And you know, you were mentioned earlier about the term 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. They organize lots of social events for students to get together. At times they have sponsored field trips to local math conferences. So that kind of helps build a sense of a math community for students on the campus and that can be really, really important for students. Yes, we value that and you we really encourage students to seek out math club. We also offer math gym, which is a peer tutoring center. And so they tutor in your primarily the upper division major courses. Tutoring also is available in the lower division math courses as well. So that's a very good resource to support students success in the math courses. And then also, you know, if you find that you're successful in your courses, you can apply to work as a math tutor, and that's another really good teaching experience that can help you To test out whether a teaching career either at the high school, or the college level would be a good fit for you. And then just related against that ETEMS scholarship, you those who are interested in teaching math, should check out our Center for enhancement of math education, or see me, which offers lots of programs to support teachers and future teachers in math and science.

Wonderful. And you know, we're recording this 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. Yeah, as it's been for, for most of us, um, you we recently, as I mentioned, developed a statistics minor. And so that's a really nice option for students interested in developing their skills in data analysis. 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 that.

Yep. Just surviving it. And then also thinking about, okay, we got a new group of students coming in for the fall, and you're ready for orientation? And then last question would be if a student has a question, like, let's say they are interested in math, of course, they have, like their professional advisor, staff advisor they might be able to connect with, but they have more specific questions. Do they would they go to your website or contact your department?

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. They can also email, the math office. And so that's a really easy email address. So it's math@csusb.edu. That goes to all three of our office staff here in the math department, and they can forward request as needed or take care of any requests that come through 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.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai