The gulf between professional mathematicians and most mathematics students

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a great mathematician. I am, however, a very good data scientist. I am currently a member of both MAA and ASA, and have previously been a member of, at different times, AMS, SIAM, and even LMS. ASA speaks to me as a data scientist, providing resources, insights, and discoveries. It’s journals and conferences are spot on. SIAM, around the edges, does too, but not enough to justify the cost.

On the other hand, MAA, and certainly AMS, don’t speak to me as a mathematician. My principal interface with all these organizations is (1) conferences and (2) journals. I find articles in AMS journals to be, at best, painful to read, even in subjects where I have substantial personal interest. MAA articles are at least readable and fun, but the overall mission of the MAA is to promote mathematics as a field. Mathematics Magazine and AMM are both targeting readers who teach undergraduate mathematics. But these are readers are teaching math majors. Even CMJ, whose mission is to focus on the first two years of mathematics education, still sits at a level above what I would give out to my students. Because my interface to these organizations is through journals and conferences, I feel like MAA does view fundamental mathematics education as not their problem.

What I teach at UMUC is much more elementary, as you know. And I don’t, generally, see MAA or AMS speaking to that. I know MAA does support a lot of precollegiate work, but this targets those students with aptitude and interest. There’s little support for those who fear math. I am also unaware of any institution that covers high school mathematics or introductory collegiate mathematics as focus.

And this is unfortunate, because there are still interesting problems to solve here.

Image by Christopher Holden / Flickr.