Steve Waters s a professor of mathematics and chair of the departments of computer science, mathematics, and physics. He took a moment to answer some questions about the pluses (no minuses here!) of a math major.
Do you have to be a math whiz to be a math major?
Absolutely not! But you do have to have a curiosity about patterns (geometric, algebraic, numerical, verbal, thought) and a willingness to stay focused on a problem for more than a few minutes. It also helps to develop a joyful attitude over discovering problem-solving techniques that don’t work as you refine your skills in finding those that do.
“I feel fortunate to work in a learning community that is always willing and eager to engage in conversation on virtually any topic.”
Are math majors destined to wear pocket protectors?
I don’t know of any math majors who wear a pocket protector, but many purchase a supply of colored pens and pencils. Our majors blend in with other students and have incredibly wide-ranging interests. Just listen for people laughing and studying together at the departments of computer science, mathematics, and physics. But be warned: once you join the sociable group there, it will be hard to leave.
You are known to avoid shoes. Why?
I think that it’s important to clarify that I have nothing against shoes; I just don’t particularly like them on my own feet. Fortunately, the mathematics community at PUC believes in making people comfortable in their mathematical pursuits, so shoe-wearing is optional. Besides, what better place is there to go barefoot than here in God’s vacation home on Earth.
What does math teach you about faith?
It teaches me to be clear with myself about starting assumptions and reasoning structures; it helps me to understand that some topics can best be understood from new and different points of view; and it helps to give me a perspective on just how much I don’t know about God’s wonderful creation and the ways that we attempt to make sense of it through our reasoning. I feel fortunate to work in a learning community that is always willing and eager to engage in conversation on virtually any topic and just as willing to accept the Holy Spirit’s influence on those conversations.