Math is known as the universal language. No matter how you look at it, it can only be one way, such as two will always be equal to two. Writing, however, is not this way.
Writing is used every day for multiple reasons throughout all the different fields and majors. In the mathematics field, writing is done a little differently compared to other fields and majors. As most would imagine, written articles in this field are not very common, except for the occasional research piece. The question that really needs to be answered before the use of writing in mathematics can even be discussed is to figure out what is to be considered writing in this field. After that is defined, writing in the mathematics field can be described and conversed about. As college students start out in this major, many wonder of the writing that is to be expected of them as well as what they should be expected to know when they graduate. The goal of this paper is to help answer these questions.
Writing in Math…Is it?
“Mathematics is the language nature uses to rebuild its wonders.” –Unknown.
One topic to be discussed is the issue of what is writing in math, or what should be considered as writing in math. As everyone knows, math mostly consists of numbers and equations that just involve some more numbers. There is the occasional letter, usually x, but this letter stands in place of an unknown number.
Writing in the Mathematics Major
Putting aside the idea that number could be considered as a form of writing, there is not much writing that is done by a student in the mathematics major in the universities. Normal math classes entail of just understanding the theories of different mathematicians.
But every once in a while there are problems that pop up that are not just solve this using that” type questions. Sometimes students must solve word problems or use math in real life type problems. This is when the mathematics student is able to put their knowledge to the test and see if they have fully understood what they learned. Putting math theories to realty makes proof that they work.
A current sophomore at Longwood University, Joe Gills, was asked how much writing he does in his classes. His response was that “In most math classes the professors require you to attend colloquiums and for each one you have to write a page summary. It varies classes to class but the summary usually consists [of] information on the presenter, what the topic was about, why it is important, and if it relates to what we have been learning in class and if so then how it relates.” This particular mathematics student has so far taken the following courses throughout his career at Longwood so far: Calculus 1, 2 and 3, Statistics, Linear Algebra, and Math and Computer Science Ethnics. In his Ethnics class alone, Joe has written three papers and has an essay based exam.
Joe Gills was also asked what he thought would be expected of him writing-wise as he advanced through his classes, and he said, “Some upper-level math class are writing intensive, such as Math Ethics and Math History, these classes usually have papers.” He also mentioned that he believed that his Senior Seminar class would include much more writing than he is in now.
Writing in the Mathematics Profession
Of course, though, there is to be writing within the mathematics profession. Many of the professors in the mathematics write research papers throughout their careers, though even these papers differ from other professions’ writings. Papers in the mathematics field generally use the American Mathematical Society format, or AMS, versus using the norm APA or MLA. This is what published materials are expected to use within the mathematics world (American Mathematical Society).
At Longwood University, Professor Phillip Poplin emailed to give more insight into the types of writing he does as a college professor. He went on to explain that he “writes articles for publication, and I also write reports, letters of reference, etc.” (Poplin). Dr. Poplin also went on to talk about how mathematicians do a lot of writing, including projects, papers, articles, etc. He reaffirms what Joe replied about with saying “most upper-level math consists mostly of writing mathematical proofs and exposition” (Poplin) and that these classes are much harder. As a professor, he expects his students to be able to communicate the knowledge they have learned in his classes, and this is tested through writing. In all levels of classes at Longwood University, students are expected to write their answers in complete sentences.
Example of Mathematics Profession: Technical Writer
One career field for someone with a mathematic major is a technical writer. “A technical writer specializes in technical writing for math, they will use their math skills every day. They will use their mathematical knowledge to design, write, create, and maintain technical documentation.” (BYU Mathematics Department). These writers tend to be free-lancers, in other words they write articles and try to get them published. These articles also use the AMS format.
Writing in the mathematics field as a student or a profession is quite different than that in other fields. Disregarding the argument over whether math equations are considered as writing or not, writing with math is only a bit different than other fields. But either way, writing is writing, and with math, it is just as simple as it is with other fields, just with a few extra rules.
American Mathematical Society. “American Mathematical Society.” AMS Author Resource Center. American Mathematical Society, 2012. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. <http://www.ams.org/publications/authors/authors>.
BYU Mathematics Department. “When Will I Use Math?” Technical Writer. BYU, 2012. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. <http://math.byu.edu/when/?q=careers/technicalwriter>.
Dictionary.com. “Writing.” Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, 2012. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/writing>.
Gills, Joesph T. Interview. 27-11-2012.
Poplin, Phillip. Interview. 27-11-2012.