Abstract:

I’ve had an interesting journey deciding what area of maths – pure, applied or statistics – I wanted to focus on. Since last year, I’ve known that I wanted to focus on pure maths, but there’s always been some stigma around it that made it hard for me to take the leap.

Blog post:

I’ve had an interesting journey deciding what area of maths – pure, applied or statistics – I wanted to focus on. Since last year, I’ve known that I wanted to focus on pure maths, but there’s always been some stigma around it that made it hard for me to take the leap.

Starting from the beginning, in high school I never really liked stats, probably because it wasn’t explained properly. Funny enough, I also didn’t like proofs, but other than that, I loved maths. So, when it came to choosing a university degree, I wanted to choose maths, but I was a bit hesitant. I struggled to see how it was useful in helping me get a job, as I had never really been told about the non-academic careers relating to pure maths. So, I decided that if I was going to do a maths degree, I’d focus on something that I thought would give me future job prospects, which, according to my beliefs at the time, meant focusing on applied maths and stats.

Luckily, after doing an introduction to stats course, I actually came to really enjoy stats, so coming into my second year, I was still planning on majoring in applied maths and statistics. Little did I know, in that first semester of my second year, my life was “ruined”. I had decided to take a real analysis subject as an “elective”. After being properly introduced to what a proof was, I would never be able to look back. I had fallen in love with the beauty of proofs, and how everything interconnected beneath the surface. At the end of that semester, I knew I could no longer major in applied maths.

But, there was still that stigma around pure maths. At that point, I was aware of the non-academic career paths relating to pure maths, but it was still a big leap. Going from applied maths, which, as the name suggests, is directly applicable, to something that was not, it was scary. When I told family and non-maths friends, they looked at me like I had two heads, asking questions like “what are you going to do with that” and “are you sure”.

Of course, this made me doubt myself, but after watching my friends do a pure maths subject which I sat out on because I “wasn’t sure”, the feelings of almost jealousy I had overhearing all the cool and completely pure things they were learning told me that pure was without a doubt the correct choice.

So that’s my story, ultimately, a love of the beauty of pure maths, and being educated on the other career paths out there helped me to choose the thing that I love. Being practical, I’m still doing stats as a second major, because I ultimately do enjoy it, just not as much as pure maths. I’m excited to do many cool and exciting pure and stats subjects in the coming years.

Elizabeth Mabbutt
University of Wollongong