“You’re a math major?? Why would you do that to yourself??!”
This is the initial response I get about 90% of the time I tell someone that I am a math major. It is typically then followed by asking me what I could possibly want to do with this degree other than become a math teacher.
While being a math teacher is a wonderful profession for some, it is definitely not the reason I chose to major in math. I went into math because I love the puzzle which is mathematics. Every new concept I learn is an opportunity for me to problem solve and eventually apply those skills to real life problems.
There are few better feelings than the feeling when you have been working on a math problem for so long, stuck and feeling like there is no way you are gonna figure it out, and then you get a breakthrough and are able to solve this problem which seemed impossible to you just a few seconds earlier. In math, there is no grey area: everything is black or white, wrong or right. If you’re like me, and get frustrated in other classes where there are no right answers, just well-defended arguments, then you will love the straight-forward nature of mathematics. There’s one correct answer, and if you can navigate your way there then you’re golden.
People always ask me what it is that I am planning on doing with my degree post graduation. To be honest, I really don’t know. But that is the beauty of a degree in mathematics: I know that by the end of my four years of taking Berkeley math courses that I will be ready to solve almost any problem which could be thrown at me. I could take what I have learned into a wide variety of job areas: pretty much any field which requires detail oriented thinking and problem solving. Also, after surviving the classes which are required to graduate with a degree in math from Berkeley, I am pretty confident that most things will seem not too bad in comparison.
I am not writing this piece to try and convince everyone to drop their current paths and become a math major, but I do think that if you are good at math and enjoy it, majoring in mathematics is something worth considering. It will give you a set of skills which will help in almost any future situation, and will inspire a love of problem solving that you didn’t know you had in you.