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Engineering is dizzyingly vast, but one thing that unites its subfields is a reliance on quantitative analysis. Math is everywhere, whether it’s differential equations in fluid flow, linear algebra to optimize an algorithm, or integrating to find the surface area of a component.
Maybe you were surprised by the amount of math in your classes and maybe you weren’t, but love it or hate it, you are going to need to be a math person to be successful as an engineer.
What does it mean to be a math person? It’s not scribbling obscurities on a chalkboard; it’s not running complex calculations in your head, although those can both be fun. Being a math person is about using the skills of logic to address problems. More than numbers, math is a formal pattern for drawing conclusions and quantifying the world.
Here’s the key fact about being a math person: you already are.
That time you tried to figure out the fastest way to your classes? That’s math. Cooking dinner? Math. Ever wondered why music sounds the way it does? You guessed it, math.
Mathematical reasoning is everywhere and allows us to learn about and affect the world. It is the underlying structure of the world, and you are in control of when and how you look through that lens. When you do, you see the subtle interplay between conjecture and proof, abstraction and example. Once you set your axioms, math is the study of all the consequences, and you can apply those results to any problem you can dream up. Math is a way of envisioning change and seeing it in motion.
The next time you’re in class and see a scary equation on the board or get lost in a sea of data, I hope you remember that math is a tool you can learn how to use. It is not impossible or dry; it is a framework to support whatever you want to build. Apply it well, and you just might catch a glimpse of the math inside yourself.
Computer science and Mathamatics, Class of 2024
If you found this blog post interesting, you may consider reading “Dear Aggie Engineer…” and “Joining an Engineering Project Team.”