What is a Mathematician?

Mathematicians use high-level mathematics and technology to develop new mathematical principles, understand relationships between existing principles, and solve real-world problems.

What does a Mathematician do?

A mathematician at the chalkboard.

There are two types of mathematicians — theoretical (pure) mathematicians and applied mathematicians.

Theoretical Mathematicians
Theoretical mathematicians develop new principles and increase basic mathematical knowledge. They don't necessarily consider its practical use, however their theoretical knowledge has been known to play an important part in some scientific and engineering achievements. Most theoretical mathematicians are university professors who also conduct research.

Applied Mathematicians
Applied mathematicians solve real problems in government, industry, business, and engineering. They start with a problem, break it up into separate parts, and then use mathematical modeling and computational methods to reduce the elements to mathematical variables. Computers are used to analyze relationships among the variables and to develop models with various solutions.

Mathematicians typically do the following:

  • Expand mathematical knowledge by developing new principles
  • Recognize previously unknown relationships between known mathematical principles
  • Create models to resolve practical problems in fields such as business, government, engineering, and the sciences
  • Develop computational methods and computer codes
  • Compare inferences derived from models with observations or experiments

Professionals in other fields of study also use mathematical techniques extensively, such as computer scientists, statisticians, physicists, and engineers. Most positions designated for mathematicians are in research and development laboratories, therefore collaboration with technical teams consisting of these other professions is quite common.

Are you suited to be a mathematician?

Mathematicians have distinct personalities. They tend to be investigative individuals, which means they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive. They are curious, methodical, rational, analytical, and logical. Some of them are also conventional, meaning they’re conscientious and conservative.

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What is the workplace of a Mathematician like?

Mathematicians work in a comfortable office environment. Applied mathematicians often need to collaborate with other professionals (as part of a team) that may include engineers, economists, computer scientists, statisticians, and physicists.

Meeting deadlines often require putting in extra hours during the week and on weekends. Some travel to attend conferences and seminars may also be required.

Theoretical mathematicians who work in a university setting usually have a mix of teaching and research responsibilities, and will conduct research either by themselves or with other mathematicians.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Mathematicians scientists?

Whether a mathematician can be called a scientist or not is a somewhat grey area which is not definitive. Strictly speaking, mathematicians are not considered natural scientists. The latter investigate the physical world; mathematicians’ work is more abstract and intangible.

Nevertheless, some of the traits one may find in a scientist – an investigative spirit, an enthusiasm for discovery, a voracious appetite for constant learning – can be found in a mathematician.

The general population, not involved in either science or mathematics, tend to categorize both in the one field. However, the majority of mathematicians would not consider themselves as scientists. Conversely, scientists would not label themselves mathematicians.

Mathematicians deal in absolute truths and must emerge with proof for a theory or hypothesis to be confirmed, while scientists can hypothesize and conditionally accept the results of the hypothesis. This is why mathematicians’ work is almost never redacted at a later date but sometimes scientists’ work can be revised or disproven.

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Do the majority of Mathematicians seem to end up working in educational settings?

Not necessarily, and in fact this view can be easily refuted when one observes the broad spectrum of careers in which a mathematician can work. It is forgivable to believe that mathematicians mainly work in educational settings though, because many are given job titles from the fields in which they work and so are not technically termed ‘mathematicians’.

A mathematician can specialize in areas as divergent as actuary, where they will use their skills to undertake risk analysis and build mathematic models, or meteorology, where they can analyze data using mathematical principles.

Of course, some mathematicians do pursue careers in research and teaching, but there are certainly other avenues for mathematicians to follow.

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Mathematicians are also known as:
Applied Mathematician Pure Mathematician