Mathematics: 'WHATEVER YOU WANT TO DO, A MATHS OR STATS DEGREE WILL HELP' ; PROFILE: THREE UK MATHEMATICAL SOCIETIES

By Pollard, Jennie | The Independent (London, England), October 6, 2005 | Go to article overview
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Mathematics: 'WHATEVER YOU WANT TO DO, A MATHS OR STATS DEGREE WILL HELP' ; PROFILE: THREE UK MATHEMATICAL SOCIETIES


Pollard, Jennie, The Independent (London, England)


ON THE SURFACE, it would appear that the three top learned mathematics societies of the UK have very different outlooks. The London Mathematical Society (LMS), founded in 1865, draws its members from mathematics doctorates, mainly employed in academia, and is committed to the promotion and extension of mathematical knowledge. The Institute of Mathematics and its Appliances (IMA), formed almost 100 years later, has a wider membership of qualified and practising mathematicians. Its mission is to promote mathematics in industry, business, the public sector, education and research. The largest and oldest learned mathematics society is the Royal Statistical Society (RSS), founded in 1834. As its name suggests, the RSS is devoted to disseminating the use of statistical methods and applications throughout society.

But scratch the surface and you will find a very different picture. Since 2001, these societies have been working together as the Council for the Mathematical Sciences (CMS) to represent the interests of mathematics to government, research councils and other public bodies. Their common interests and shared beliefs are driving the activities undertaken by the CMS to promote mathematics.

First and foremost, the societies are joining forces to present mathematics and statistics as useful and important, as well as interesting. Many undergraduates who choose to study maths and stats at university do so because they enjoy them or have a particular aptitude for them. Not all train in these subjects to achieve specific career goals; many undergraduates have little idea what they would like to do after finishing their degree. But the good news is that a mathematical sciences degree provides excellent skills and opportunities suitable to a variety of careers.

Regardless of what you want to do, a mathematics or statistics degree will help, says Ivor Goddard, director general of the RSS. Maths is a skill rather than a vocation; you can do it for enjoyment and still end up with a worthwhile qualification of practical value.

Employers are always looking for the range of intellectual and practical skills that a maths or stats degree brings. In our increasingly technological society, it is important that people in all walks of life should be numerate and able to understand how to assess risks and reason with highly complex data. Maths provides the abstract tools that can be used in almost every kind of employment, because it teaches students to think logically, creatively and laterally to solve problems. Such transferable skills as logic, analysis, deduction and calculation are highly sought after by employers in the computing, finance, risk assessment and security industries, among others.

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Mathematics: 'WHATEVER YOU WANT TO DO, A MATHS OR STATS DEGREE WILL HELP' ; PROFILE: THREE UK MATHEMATICAL SOCIETIES
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