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chocolate-chip chooky

For those who are raising mathematicians or are mathematicians

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I've been reading the other thread with interest (LEK's):  http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/639347-study-plans-for-a-future-mathematician/ 

 

I just wanted to take this in a slightly different direction.

 

For those of you who are mathematicians or are raising one (Quark? Lewelma?), what sort of career paths are there for mathematicians, outside of academia? What sort of career goals do you/they have?

 

 

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FWIW, DH's degrees are Math and CS, went to grad school in pure math, drifted into programming computerized solutions for problems, and is now a software engineer/architect, working with business software.

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FWIW, DH's degrees are Math and CS, went to grad school in pure math, drifted into programming computerized solutions for problems, and is now a software engineer/architect, working with business software.

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Well, the problem is that math is a tool, so it can be used in so many fields.  I've told my ds that he needs to take a broad variety of courses in lots of fields to see where he might want to use his skills.  His interests have included over the years:

 

computational neurobiology

market maker

theoretical physicist

cryptography

medical/NASA geometry (folding large objects to pack into small spaces)

 

So he has considered biology, finance, physics, security, biomedical engineering, and NASA.

 

The range is just so huge.  It's kind of a problem!

 

Ruth in NZ 

Edited by lewelma
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FWIW, DH's degrees are Math and CS, went to grad school in pure math, drifted into programming computerized solutions for problems, and is now a software engineer/architect, working with business software.

 

Sounds like one of my older daughters. She's doing a double degree in maths and IT (games programming). Maths is integrated into all sorts of fields.

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Engineering is a great fit! And there are so many different avenues in engineering. The standard degrees from my college were civil, mechanical, electrical, chemical and environmental. My husband and I (Electrical engineers) worked in the oil and gas industry, but I also interviewed with companies involved in space exploration, pharmaceuticals and then architecture. Environmental engineers work at most companies. Mechanical engineers can do anything from working on naval ship design to all of the above mentioned jobs. My chemical engineer friends currently work in chemical companies, oil and gas, or have gone on to become doctors.

 

There are a lot of Mathy people who go on to work in finance in some fashion.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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I should add that ds wants to work with other people like himself.  He does not want to be *the* mathematician in an office that people go to.

 

And I have told him that he needs to make sure there are jobs available.  I have read that the PhD's coming out of CERN are walking into a worldwide market that cannot hire them.  I just think that that would be so depressing - to have so much knowledge and excitement about a field and then have to settle for something else.  

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Well, the problem is that math is a tool, so it can be used in so many fields.  I've told my ds that he needs to take a broad variety of courses in lots of fields to see where he might want to use his skills.  His interests have included over the years:

 

computational neurobiology

market maker

theoretical physicist

cryptography

medical/NASA geometry (folding large objects to pack into small spaces)

 

So he has considered biology, finance, physics, security, biomedical engineering, and NASA.

 

The range is just so huge.  It's kind of a problem!

 

Ruth in NZ 

 

I guess this is what I'm thinking. Maths is part of heaps of cool fields.

 

But what about people who identify as a mathematician? Is it only academia? Or can you be a mathematician who works for NASA? Or a mathematician who works for a biomed company?

 

I'm just curious really. My 10 year old has been asking a bit about what 'being a mathematician' could actually mean, as opposed to a physicist, engineer etc with all that embedded maths.

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I should add that ds wants to work with other people like himself.  He does not want to be *the* mathematician in an office that people go to.

 

And I have told him that he needs to make sure there are jobs available.  I have read that the PhD's coming out of CERN are walking into a worldwide market that cannot hire them.  I just think that that would be so depressing - to have so much knowledge and excitement about a field and then have to settle for something else.  

 

And how does your son find people like himself? (I'm hijacking my own thread here, but this a is tangent I want to travel for a moment.)

AoPS forums? Does he have any one in real life that's really 'like him'?

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This is a great question.  When I was in high school, I was told by a close friend that a math degree is good for three things: teaching, insurance companies, and accounting.  So i didn't get a math degree.  Now, I find that I love doing contest problems and wonder if I should be teaching math (or coaching math or tutoring math or something). 

 

My mom got a math degree--not sure what she did at the time--probably physics related simulations, but eventually got a CS degree and did programming.  My dad got a physics degree, did programming (starting in the 1960s), especially of  physics simulations.  My friends have gotten Aero-astro degrees and physics degrees, and a lot of them have ended up in IT or software engineering.  A friend of mine got a Mech E degree and ended up head of IT.... Sensing a trend here......

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This is a great question.  When I was in high school, I was told by a close friend that a math degree is good for three things: teaching, insurance companies, and accounting.  So i didn't get a math degree.  Now, I find that I love doing contest problems and wonder if I should be teaching math (or coaching math or tutoring math or something). 

 

My mom got a math degree--not sure what she did at the time--probably physics related simulations, but eventually got a CS degree and did programming.  My dad got a physics degree, did programming (starting in the 1960s), especially of  physics simulations.  My friends have gotten Aero-astro degrees and physics degrees, and a lot of them have ended up in IT or software engineering.  A friend of mine got a Mech E degree and ended up head of IT.... Sensing a trend here......

 

I wonder how many adults would say 'I'm a mathematician', as opposed to 'I'm a physicist/programmer/engineer'.

This is the crux of my question. Are there mathematicians outside of academia? Or are most of the strong mathy people using their strong mathy skills in other fields?

 

As I said up thread, one of my own daughters is doing a maths degree (along with an IT games programming degree), but she wouldn't identify as a mathematician. She would likely identify as a games programmer, who uses maths.

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People who were in grad school with me found jobs doing mathematically-based research (a couple at Argonne or Fermilab), doing mathematical modeling for large companies such as mobile phone companies, doing programming and development for a medical software company, and a lot of other places. 

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I wonder how many adults would say 'I'm a mathematician', as opposed to 'I'm a physicist/programmer/engineer'.

This is the crux of my question. Are there mathematicians outside of academia? Or are most of the strong mathy people using their strong mathy skills in other fields?

 

As I said up thread, one of my own daughters is doing a maths degree (along with an IT games programming degree), but she wouldn't identify as a mathematician. She would likely identify as a games programmer, who uses maths.

 

I've been both a theoretical/mathematical biologist and a mathematical statistician.  In the first role, I considered myself a biologist and in the second a statistician.  So I'm not sure that you have to 'call' yourself anything.  I had a friend who did population dynamics just like I did when I was a biologist but he did it through a statistics department, so he called himself a statistician. 

 

There are mathematicians that are named mathematicians in any field that requires modelling.  My friend was in the fisheries industry.  I was in Statistics New Zealand, a government department that organizes and calculates all the stats for the entire government to use when making decisions.

 

All of the fields that I listed in my previous post are more mathematically based than something like engineering. So your job title might be neurobiologist, but you could call yourself a mathematical modeler if you wanted. Same work, different names. 

Edited by lewelma
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I just got a job in composite engineering while I finish up school stuff to go back to teaching. I am much more pure math at heart than engineering, but it is a good job and it will work. Lots of creativity and problem solving.

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Thanks for this thread, this is something I have been considering for dd, at 9 she is not yet contemplating where the math will take her, only that she wants to be a mathematician. Maybe she will end up in the academia field but there are so many other places that a mathematics degree will take you. Over time I am sure she will refine her goals but right now we are following the math and seeing where it leads us. I am loving all the diverse places this may end up for her, so many choices

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My ds thought math was his first love until 8th grade, his first real introduction to physics. He still very much enjoys math, but physics is very much his true passion.

 

The world is changing rapidly. I would let him love math. 5,6,7,8+ yrs from now, what will the computing technology be? What will be our new norms? (When I started homeschooling 20 yrs ago, I didn't have a computer. I didn't have a cell phone until maybe 15-16 yrs ago.) There may be new fields in math we can't even conceptualize today. Ds keeps talking about quantum computers and their revolutionary processing. (I'm clueless.)

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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My father became a prominent engineer in the space program; my wife stayed academic; my cousin became a successful sales engineer. I am currently in a senior position in an IT department.

 

Other key roles I know of filled by mathematicians? Quantitative analysts, actuaries, data scientists, sports analysts, programmers, economists, scientists... Mathematicians do well, because they know how to think about difficult problems.

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DS wants to go into academia/ research, be a literary critic, a philosopher, play jazz piano in his free time and delve deeper into the Japanese language. For now. :001_smile:

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Many would-be mathematicians also have talents and interests in other directions and they may have a difficult choice to make between embarking on a mathematical career and pursuing something else. The great Gauss is reputed to have wavered between mathematics and philology, Pascal deserted mathematics at an early age for theology, while Descartes and Leibniz are also famous as philosophers. Some mathematicians move into physics (e.g., Freeman Dyson) while others (e.g., Harish Chandra, Raoul Bott) have moved the other way. You should not regard mathematics as a closed world, and the interaction between mathematics and other disciplines is healthy both for the individual and for society.

 

From Advice to a Young Mathematician

 

I would suggest to not be too concerned about what a young mathematician's career goals are but instead focus on how much they stay intensely curious, are willing to keep learning, working hard, being good people, and making connections with the world around them. Sorry if it sounds too simplistic. For us, some amount of goals are good but career goals still feel way too far into the future. Right now we are still focusing on what gives joy.

Edited by quark
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I have three friends with degrees in math. One is a high school math teacher. The second is a cyber analyst. The third worked for an insurance company as an actuary for a while and is now a librarian.

I also have a friend who got a BS in physics. He now co-own and manages a gym.

And I know several engineers with engineering degrees.

Edited by Korrale
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I would not call myself a mathematician (although in college I might have used the term mathmagician..) but I do have a degree in math. I did not end up getting a job that was explicitly math related. When we had our career fairs, I researched every company that I thought might even be slightly interesting. I went up to their recruiters, asked questions, talked about their projects and then asked what types of jobs a person with my interests might hold in their companies. I had tons of interviews that turned into a number of job offers. I chose based on my interest in the company and the people I'd be working with (that is to say, not pay, but there were a few very well paying offers if that were my main goal). I was super happy with my first job and felt I had a ton of options even after that first choice. I don't think it is necessary to differentiate by college. A degree in math can be a lot more flexible than an engineering degree, and I'd never recommend a CS degree unless that were your undying passion. That's a field where your recent work speaks for itself.

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And how does your son find people like himself? (I'm hijacking my own thread here, but this a is tangent I want to travel for a moment.)

AoPS forums? Does he have any one in real life that's really 'like him'?

 

Well, he has been *very* lucky this past year, that the top NZ math student who is also top 5 in the country globally, goes to school 6 blocks away from our house. This friendship has been growing over time, and ds feels really lucky to have someone with whom he can be himself, his real self. The other boy is quite quiet and my ds is very gregarious, but it doesn't seem to matter.  Unfortunately, this boy is a senior this year and has already been accepted into Warwick in the UK and is now waiting on Cambridge having already gotten an interview. So he will be gone soon.  However, they will be taking the same university class this term which will give them more time together, and they study competition maths most weeks at the library.  

 

He found this boy through the math camp, and they went to the IMO together last year.

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From Advice to a Young Mathematician

 

I would suggest to not be too concerned about what a young mathematician's career goals are but instead focus on how much they stay intensely curious, are willing to keep learning, working hard, being good people, and making connections with the world around them. Sorry if it sounds too simplistic. For us, some amount of goals are good but career goals still feel way too far into the future. Right now we are still focusing on what gives joy.

 

That is such sound advice. I agree whole-heartedly.

 

I think it's kind of cool that my daughter is asking questions about what being a mathematician could mean, but there are no career goals at this stage. Just questions. Lots of questions. Always questions.

 

She's 10. We have so much time to explore all sorts of fabulous things and who knows where any of it will lead.  She's the one who thinks ahead to the 'what will I study' sort of thoughts. This is probably because her two sisters are uni students, so that's what she sees and knows. I keep reminding her that she has time to explore and that we need to keep building foundations for all sorts of possible future paths.

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DS wants to go into academia/ research, be a literary critic, a philosopher, play jazz piano in his free time and delve deeper into the Japanese language. For now. :001_smile:

 

This made me smile.

I can so relate and I love it.  :)

 

My daughter's list keeps changing, but right now it might be something like: live on a farm with a vet clinic (as long as the farm is close to our home and we visit all the time), while being a novelist, while having an Etsy shop to sell her crochet creations, while forging new frontiers in biochemistry. Oh, yeah, and there's that whole 'what does it mean to be mathematician' thing too.  :001_smile:

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Well, he has been *very* lucky this past year, that the top NZ math student who is also top 5 in the country globally, goes to school 6 blocks away from our house. This friendship has been growing over time, and ds feels really lucky to have someone with whom he can be himself, his real self. The other boy is quite quiet and my ds is very gregarious, but it doesn't seem to matter.  Unfortunately, this boy is a senior this year and has already been accepted into Warwick in the UK and is now waiting on Cambridge having already gotten an interview. So he will be gone soon.  However, they will be taking the same university class this term which will give them more time together, and they study competition maths most weeks at the library.  

 

He found this boy through the math camp, and they went to the IMO together last year.

 

He has indeed been very fortunate.  My DD is not at the same level that is being discussed in this thread, but she does have some of the same social issues.  She loves math and discussing sci fi and most of her peers think she's a bit nuts (Happily they're good kids, though, and kind.  They just don't get it.)

 

OP, DD has had mixed results on the AoPS forums.  She has had some fun interacting, but there is a small group of kids who delight in "trolling" others; basically, they're mean.  She rarely participates in forum games anymore.)

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A degree in math qualifies you for a lot of jobs. An employer figures that if you can learn math, you can learn most anything. So math is listed as a qualifying degree in a wide variety of fields. However, to be a mathematician, you'll likely need a Masters or PhD in math. While pursuing that Master's/PhD, you'll choose a track that will determine your career path. I choose the statistics track and ended up as a mathematician/statistician in the energy field. I've also been a biostatistician. There are lots of tracks to choose but that choice isn't made until the master's program.

 

 

Basically, almost all career paths are open to math degrees: business, science, research, financial. 

 

Jobs labeled 'mathematician' (or similar) are also in all of the career paths mentioned above. 'Synonyms' to mathematician: quantitative analyst, statistician, xxx Modeler, computational analyst, data scientist, actuary, data analyst, data engineer, xxxx modeling, operations research analyst, xxxx forecasting, etc... Your chosen track makes you more qualified for one job over the other.

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That is such sound advice. I agree whole-heartedly.

 

I think it's kind of cool that my daughter is asking questions about what being a mathematician could mean, but there are no career goals at this stage. Just questions. Lots of questions. Always questions.

 

She's 10. We have so much time to explore all sorts of fabulous things and who knows where any of it will lead.  She's the one who thinks ahead to the 'what will I study' sort of thoughts. This is probably because her two sisters are uni students, so that's what she sees and knows. I keep reminding her that she has time to explore and that we need to keep building foundations for all sorts of possible future paths.

 

I think she is spot on and I hope I did not come across as trying to convince you/ her otherwise. I love all you describe about her. In some cases, people lose this eyes-sparkling-explore-everything wonder about the world and I hope mine never does. I am a control freak and to help him remain curious and wondering, I have stepped back a bit about asking him what he wants to be. His delight in things reminds me he can be many things although he will have to find one or two that put food on the table and help pay the bills.

 

Another side of me though wonders if I should be more practical and persuade him to decide because sometimes being starry-eyed only leads to idealism and then, extreme disappointment. I have no answers but am just discovering life along with him. Good to always have plans though and to not be afraid about moving on to plan B, C, X, Y, Z if A falls through.

 

((good luck hugs))

 

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My husband has undergraduate degrees in math and computer science, and a Masters in math.  He now works for a software company, where he enjoys being the person they trust with the problems no one else can solve.  He was in a PhD program aiming for a career as a researching math professor, but the babies came, and that slowed down his progress, and we couldn't afford to keep him in school for the extra year I think he would have needed.

 

I think on some level he still identifies as a math person, even if he's not a mathematician by profession.  When the subject of math comes up, I can tell he misses working directly with it, but at the same time this has been a satisfying career for him.

 

I would say that in general, a person who is gifted in math is going to be more satisfied by a career that involves solving challenging problems rather than a career that looks math-y but just involves repeated calculations (some financial careers) or even teaching math.  Math research seems like the best of both worlds, but typically that comes with the stress of applying for grants and/or needing to achieve tenure.  

 

I don't know how old your son is, but if he's still young I wouldn't expect him to have the maturity to make that kind of a career decision now.  I will say that as the wife of someone with a strong math bent, I'm thankful my husband ended up with a less stressful career.  But obviously your son will need to weigh the stress against other things, and he may decide it's worth it.  Not trying to discourage that at all, only to make you aware that there is something pretty significant to be weighed there.

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I would say that in general, a person who is gifted in math is going to be more satisfied by a career that involves solving challenging problems rather than a career that looks math-y but just involves repeated calculations (some financial careers) or even teaching math.  

 

This is the piece I'm trying to figure out. The work I did as a 'mathematical statistician' was in the math-y looking category, but with not enough challenging problems so I left pretty quickly.  DS *needs* to be with a team of people who are working on solving challenging problems, which makes me think research (for-profit or academic).  Engineering seems more math-y looking than challenging to me, unless you are in engineering research.  Is this true?  

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He has indeed been very fortunate.  My DD is not at the same level that is being discussed in this thread, but she does have some of the same social issues.  She loves math and discussing sci fi and most of her peers think she's a bit nuts (Happily they're good kids, though, and kind.  They just don't get it.)

 

OP, DD has had mixed results on the AoPS forums.  She has had some fun interacting, but there is a small group of kids who delight in "trolling" others; basically, they're mean.  She rarely participates in forum games anymore.)

 

Thanks for the heads-up on that.

My daughter hasn't shown any interest in online forums at all yet, but I'll need to be aware of this sort of thing. What a shame for those who are just trying to interact and find some like-minded friends.

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A degree in math qualifies you for a lot of jobs. An employer figures that if you can learn math, you can learn most anything. So math is listed as a qualifying degree in a wide variety of fields. However, to be a mathematician, you'll likely need a Masters or PhD in math. While pursuing that Master's/PhD, you'll choose a track that will determine your career path. I choose the statistics track and ended up as a mathematician/statistician in the energy field. I've also been a biostatistician. There are lots of tracks to choose but that choice isn't made until the master's program.

 

 

Basically, almost all career paths are open to math degrees: business, science, research, financial. 

 

Jobs labeled 'mathematician' (or similar) are also in all of the career paths mentioned above. 'Synonyms' to mathematician: quantitative analyst, statistician, xxx Modeler, computational analyst, data scientist, actuary, data analyst, data engineer, xxxx modeling, operations research analyst, xxxx forecasting, etc... Your chosen track makes you more qualified for one job over the other.

 

This is really, really helpful. Thank you!

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Sounds like AoPS needs to know this.  They don't want to get a reputation for it not being a safe place.  I would definitely send them an email and even name names.

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He has indeed been very fortunate.  My DD is not at the same level that is being discussed in this thread, but she does have some of the same social issues.  She loves math and discussing sci fi and most of her peers think she's a bit nuts (Happily they're good kids, though, and kind.  They just don't get it.)

 

OP, DD has had mixed results on the AoPS forums.  She has had some fun interacting, but there is a small group of kids who delight in "trolling" others; basically, they're mean.  She rarely participates in forum games anymore.)

 

I was just asking my son about this. He participates and confirms that there are trolls and mean people on there too. That makes me sad, it seems like such a good place to meet like minded individuals. :(

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My husband has undergraduate degrees in math and computer science, and a Masters in math.  He now works for a software company, where he enjoys being the person they trust with the problems no one else can solve.  He was in a PhD program aiming for a career as a researching math professor, but the babies came, and that slowed down his progress, and we couldn't afford to keep him in school for the extra year I think he would have needed.

 

I think on some level he still identifies as a math person, even if he's not a mathematician by profession.  When the subject of math comes up, I can tell he misses working directly with it, but at the same time this has been a satisfying career for him.

 

I would say that in general, a person who is gifted in math is going to be more satisfied by a career that involves solving challenging problems rather than a career that looks math-y but just involves repeated calculations (some financial careers) or even teaching math.  Math research seems like the best of both worlds, but typically that comes with the stress of applying for grants and/or needing to achieve tenure.  

 

I don't know how old your son is, but if he's still young I wouldn't expect him to have the maturity to make that kind of a career decision now.  I will say that as the wife of someone with a strong math bent, I'm thankful my husband ended up with a less stressful career.  But obviously your son will need to weigh the stress against other things, and he may decide it's worth it.  Not trying to discourage that at all, only to make you aware that there is something pretty significant to be weighed there.

 

Thanks for your reply.

 

My daughter is 10.  The bits in bold really resonate. Already she takes great pleasure in nutting out challenging problems (thanks AoPS and Zaccaro!) And she cannot stand, will not tolerate, repetition. She also resists writing anything down and does most calculations and rearranging in her head. I wonder sometimes if that is her way of making a dull problem more challenging and interesting.

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I think she is spot on and I hope I did not come across as trying to convince you/ her otherwise. I love all you describe about her. In some cases, people lose this eyes-sparkling-explore-everything wonder about the world and I hope mine never does. I am a control freak and to help him remain curious and wondering, I have stepped back a bit about asking him what he wants to be. His delight in things reminds me he can be many things although he will have to find one or two that put food on the table and help pay the bills.

 

Another side of me though wonders if I should be more practical and persuade him to decide because sometimes being starry-eyed only leads to idealism and then, extreme disappointment. I have no answers but am just discovering life along with him. Good to always have plans though and to not be afraid about moving on to plan B, C, X, Y, Z if A falls through.

 

((good luck hugs))

 

 

I know I've said this before, but I'll say it again. I have so much respect for your perspectives, opinions and wisdom from experience.

So much of what you write about your son makes me nod along in understanding. You seem to have already traveled a very similar path to the one I'm on right now, so I really value your thoughts.

 

All of you folks here are so kind and helpful. I'm so glad I stumbled across this forum.

 

 

Sentimental mushy moment over.  :blushing:

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Sounds like AoPS needs to know this.  They don't want to get a reputation for it not being a safe place.  I would definitely send them an email and even name names.

 

Honestly, it's nothing I would call "unsafe"; it's mostly just unkind.  I would characterize it as the behavior of poorly socialized, poorly supervised 12-year-old boys.  I'm sure that they think they're funny, but they fail to realize that they're the only ones laughing.

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I was just asking my son about this. He participates and confirms that there are trolls and mean people on there too. That makes me sad, it seems like such a good place to meet like minded individuals. :(

 

In a lot of ways, it is.  My daughter does like to read the discussion forums, because she likes to know that other kids are interested in the same things she is and she wants to know what they think.  She will NOT participate, however, for fear of possibly becoming a target.  For a while, she really enjoyed playing Mafia, but the group dynamic changed and she hasn't gone back.  She has picked up a couple of friends with whom she interacts online away from AoPS, so that's been nice.

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She has picked up a couple of friends with whom she interacts online away from AoPS, so that's been nice.

 

Like mine!  :hurray:  

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Thanks for your reply.

 

My daughter is 10.  The bits in bold really resonate. Already she takes great pleasure in nutting out challenging problems (thanks AoPS and Zaccaro!) And she cannot stand, will not tolerate, repetition. She also resists writing anything down and does most calculations and rearranging in her head. I wonder sometimes if that is her way of making a dull problem more challenging and interesting.

 

This is where having the advanced degree would help. Most mathematicians/statisticians are working difficult problems. However, there are a lot of mathy careers that are pure calculations: accountants, financial analyst, cost estimators, some types of engineers, entry level statisticians/statisticians in certain fields is who does those repetitive calculations. Complexity is also tied to the field you go in -- Industry A simply has more complex work than Industry B. If she wants challenging work, an advanced degree is in her future. If she stops at a bachelor's then her career (initially) will be limited to mathy stuff.

 

I tell people all the time that math is not about math (numbers/calculations). It is about logical, analytical problem-solving. Most math courses don't involve hand computations after you get passed differential equations (which is where most engineers stop, and most other majors stopped before that at calculus). Many of my graduate level math books didn't even have numbers in them!

 

So when people say they want to major in math bc they love math --- I say if you love doing computation, you are looking for accounting, finance, engineering (some).

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My kids are currently "following" Matt Parker who is an Australian who moved to U.K. They liked his book too.

http://standupmaths.com

 

So when people say they want to major in math bc they love math --- I say if you love doing computation, you are looking for accounting, finance, engineering (some).

I agree.

None of my "mathy" relatives enjoy theoretical math so they are either accountants with an accounting degree followed by ACCA (UK), or in corporate finance/investment banking with a BEng or small business owners with a BEng. The only relative with a BEng and in engineering is an Air Force mechanic repairing fighter planes. Not really surprised as my maternal and paternal grandparents are all self employed.

My 3rd youngest nephew graduating this fall with a BEng has a job offer with a big 5 in investment banking. His dad (my cousin) also graduated with a BEng and had three bank offers prior to graduation, went to work in investment banking too before retiring early to do volunteer work.

My DS12 has broaden his career choices from when he was a 4 year old. He is leaning business/finance though and all along has zero interest for academia or research.

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I guess this is what I'm thinking. Maths is part of heaps of cool fields.

 

But what about people who identify as a mathematician? Is it only academia? Or can you be a mathematician who works for NASA? Or a mathematician who works for a biomed company?

 

I'm just curious really. My 10 year old has been asking a bit about what 'being a mathematician' could actually mean, as opposed to a physicist, engineer etc with all that embedded maths.

 

 

I just wanted to respond to this and point out that the NSA (not NASA, but National Security Agency) recruits HEAVILY at all upper level math events, because they are the largest employer of mathematicians in the country. While spending a summer interning there (and it's nice, bc you get the same salary as permanent employees at your education/experience level) we also got tours of the CIA and several other notable places that recruit mathematicians pretty heavily, and they work as mathematicians. They can't tell you how *many* they employ, because that's classified... But they can tell you that they hire more than anyone else in the US. :) (Caveat: that was 10 years ago that I worked there, so it's possible they're no longer the largest employer of mathematicians in the country.)

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This is the piece I'm trying to figure out. The work I did as a 'mathematical statistician' was in the math-y looking category, but with not enough challenging problems so I left pretty quickly.  DS *needs* to be with a team of people who are working on solving challenging problems, which makes me think research (for-profit or academic).  Engineering seems more math-y looking than challenging to me, unless you are in engineering research.  Is this true?  

 

I think there are places in industry where companies need engineers to develop creative solutions to new problems, aside from long-term research.  My guess is, as I think someone suggested above, that a graduate degree of some kind would be his ticket to be involved in a project like that.  I like my husband's combination of math major + practical major (CS in his case) + math masters.  Seems to communicate that he has practical skills ("Hire me!") but that he's capable of solving your hardest problems, so don't waste him on something just anyone could do.

 

The advantage of research is probably that it would give him a more stimulating environment in terms of his co-workers, and that the work would be consistently challenging.  It's one thing to be the one guy they can hand the hard problems to when they happen to have them, and the rest of the time you're doing mundane work; it's another to be working somewhere that exists exclusively to solve hard problems, and the problems you work on as a team are so hard none of you could solve them on your own.  I'm guessing the latter is less common in industry (outside of research).  My husband's work (at a tech company, not research) is somewhere in between, I think.  But it's possible that with the right company he could still get that ideal of an intellectually stimulating team environment.

 

FWIW, my experience at a for-profit research organization, doing computer science work, was that the challenge was inconsistent (either too easy or too hard).  My husband's work isn't consistently difficult either, but the challenges seem to be more satisfying to him.  Idk.  We're different people.  But I guess all I'm saying is don't write off industry.  With an advanced degree, he'll have both options. 

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I am so sorry to hear that some kids aren't feeling welcome on the AoPS boards. It is very tricky; some of the middle school aged posters just aren't very mature.

 

Be sure to use the "Report" function on AoPS whenever this happens. I know that they do want to correct such incidents, but they don't have the time to read every single post themselves every day.

 

My daughter made some great connections through the boards and blogs years ago, and some of those kids are still in her life today (not kids any longer, though!).

 

She now works for AoPS and is adamant about making the forums a welcoming place. If reporting bullying behavior doesn't work, then PM me, & I'll point out such incidents to her directly. :)

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OP, I love that your 10yo wants to be a mathematician. You've already received so many good responses! I especially love quark's advice to keep the love of math, the joy, and the curiosity alive. This was always my goal & is far more worthwhile in the long run than any curricular advice you could get.

 

I identify with being a mathematician, even though it's been a while since I've worked formally. Math was my interest since I was in the third grade and read Fun with Mathematics. Then I went to the library and worked through the cryptography books there. I was blessed with a wonderful high school teacher who introduced me to diverse topics (like AoPS today) and got me started on contest math. In college I got dual degrees in chemical engineering and math, and finally went on to get a PhD in applied math.

 

I've worked in academia (Ga Tech), industry (duPont central research office), and high school teaching & tutoring (CTY and others) over the years. Each had pluses and minuses. Academia was great in the freedom allowed to pursue my own interests (nonlinear elastic material science & population dynamics), and I loved teaching bright young students, but the stress of publishing and gaining tenure was bad, especially when I wanted to get married and start a family. DuPont paid much better, and I got to work on all sort of real life problems, from designing toothbrush bristles to airplane wings. CTY allowed me to interact with some really sharp young minds. All of them offered hard problems and great co-workers.

 

I agree that national labs are another wonderful place for a mathematician to consider. I met several NSA mathematicians when my dd was on a Maryland based ARML team (they came to some of our practice meets), and I considered taking a position at Sandia Labs in New Mexico back in the day.

 

My son is a former USAMO kid & MOPer, who's enjoying work as a software developer at one of the Silicon Valley companies.

 

My daughter loves putting her math talent to work at the AoPS offices, helping to run their online school. Plenty of past math olympiad kids work there.

 

Both kids found lots of peers through summer math camps, AoPS classes, and math competitions.

 

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Released today link at the very bottom.

 

"The World's Best Mathematician (*) - Numberphile

Published on Mar 14, 2017(*) Among current mathematicians, many people regard Professor Tao as the world's finest... Opinions on such things vary, of course. Professor Tao kindly fielded some of our questions, including many submitted by Numberphile viewers. EXTRA FOOTAGE: https://youtu.be/48Hr3CT5Tpk (and more extras to come) The Legend of Question Six: https://youtu.be/Y30VF3cSIYQ "

 

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=MXJ-zpJeY3E

Edited by Arcadia
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I think there are places in industry where companies need engineers to develop creative solutions to new problems, aside from long-term research. My guess is, as I think someone suggested above, that a graduate degree of some kind would be his ticket to be involved in a project like that. I like my husband's combination of math major + practical major (CS in his case) + math masters. Seems to communicate that he has practical skills ("Hire me!") but that he's capable of solving your hardest problems, so don't waste him on something just anyone could do.

 

The advantage of research is probably that it would give him a more stimulating environment in terms of his co-workers, and that the work would be consistently challenging. It's one thing to be the one guy they can hand the hard problems to when they happen to have them, and the rest of the time you're doing mundane work; it's another to be working somewhere that exists exclusively to solve hard problems, and the problems you work on as a team are so hard none of you could solve them on your own. I'm guessing the latter is less common in industry (outside of research). My husband's work (at a tech company, not research) is somewhere in between, I think. But it's possible that with the right company he could still get that ideal of an intellectually stimulating team environment.

 

FWIW, my experience at a for-profit research organization, doing computer science work, was that the challenge was inconsistent (either too easy or too hard). My husband's work isn't consistently difficult either, but the challenges seem to be more satisfying to him. Idk. We're different people. But I guess all I'm saying is don't write off industry. With an advanced degree, he'll have both options.

That is DH's background as well, and basically his job-he's the troubleshooter you hand really hard problems to. He works for the biggest provider of point of sale hardware and software in the world. He is part of a team, but tends to work by himself most of the time, with occasional collaboration. He's been able to stay out of management while largely getting salary and benefits equivalent to management.

 

It seems to lead to job security, too. So far he's been retained through two corporate buyouts and multiple rounds of downsizing and cost-cutting.

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