SIAM News Blog

Understanding and Appreciating Mathematics and Statistics

April is Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month

Both mathematics and statistics play a significant role in addressing many real-world problems, including climate change, disease, sustainability, the data deluge, and internet security. Research in these and other areas is ongoing, yielding new results and applications every day in fields such as medicine, manufacturing, energy, biotechnology, and business. Mathematics and statistics are important drivers of innovation in our technological world, where new systems and methodologies continue to become more complex.

We encourage you to participate in Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month! Organize and host activities all throughout April; past events have included workshops, competitions, festivals, lectures, symposia, department open houses, math art exhibits, and math poetry readings. Share your activities on social media with the hashtag #MathStatMonth. Follow “MathAware” on Facebook and Twitter for more information.

Mathematics and statistics are powerful tools. Thus, Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month is important because these subjects enable our understanding of the world around us. In the realm of physics, mathematics allows scientists to study planetary orbits and send space probes on successful journeys that are hundreds of millions of miles in length. Using statistics, physicists can sift through quadrillions of collisions in the Large Hadron Collider and discover the mysterious Higgs boson. In engineering, these tools facilitate the design of steel buildings, bridges, and airplanes, and ensure their performance and robustness even before they are constructed. Mathematics and statistics help biologists decode the mysteries of human DNA and prevent disease. In business, researchers use these subjects to craft financial predictions, study economics, and forecast strategies to benefit entire nations. They are at the heart of computers, technology, electrical systems, and the engines that drive our cars and fly our planes. Perhaps Galileo said it best: “Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe.”

Mathematics is the science of patterns and statistics is the science of data. Learning these subjects is like learning to play an intricate, challenging, and exciting game. Every branch of mathematics has its own rules and we explore the possibilities within these rules, discovering new ideas and opportunities as we go. The rules of mathematics and statistics are the rules of logic; they existed long before we ever did. 

Finally, let us not forget that mathematics and statistics are beautiful, extraordinary forms of art. They exhibit as much detail as a sculpture by Michelangelo, carry the universal resonance of a Beethoven symphony, elicit the serene beauty of a painting by Leonardo da Vinci, and reveal insights as deep and enduring as those in a Shakespearean play. Their powerful truths will continue to transcend time and shape the ideas of future generations.

Kelly Cline, Carroll College

SIAM pulls together individuals who are not easy to convene — applied mathematicians and computational scientists come from many academic departments and hold numerous industrial job titles, few of which include the word “mathematician.” The organization’s diversity and interdisciplinary nature provide a space for people from these various backgrounds all over the world. As Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month approaches, I appreciate SIAM’s unique role among professional societies in bringing real-world applications of math to so many issues. These issues range from tumor growth to baseball, from modeling the dynamics of mosquito-borne diseases or drug-dosing schedules to predicting financial markets or the spread of Lyme disease, and ultimately involve the utilization of data, quantitative methods, and (frequently) technical computing software to bring better understanding and insight to big, important, open-ended topics that are essential to our world. SIAM encourages and supports research and education in the mathematical sciences via publications and conferences, which give professionals the opportunity to share their work with others in the community. It also aims to deliver the valuable work occurring in our fields to the public eye through its website, publicity and press releases, social media, YouTube videos, and even the presentation of relevant problems to thousands of high school students each year in the MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge. Bringing that visibility of computational sciences is really the crux of Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month, so kudos for all of the good work being done and to SIAM for putting a very public lens on it.

Cleve Moler, MathWorks

Schools, universities, organizations, associations, and related interest groups are hosting a myriad of activities throughout April in honor of Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month.

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