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What Is Interdisciplinary Mathematics?

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  • Written By: Synthia L. Rose
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 22 November 2016
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Interdisciplinary mathematics is a field of mathematics that merges math expertise with proficiency in another discipline, usually science, business, medicine or engineering. This contemporary training approach to educating math majors caters to employers who need professionals with strong math skills but who have a broader scope of application than traditional mathematics majors. Colleges and universities offer interdisciplinary mathematics as an alternative to one-dimensional math degrees that yield fewer job opportunities for graduates. In past eras, employers had to re-train math majors to fit into positions in other fields.

Universities arrange academic tracks for students in interdisciplinary mathematics by pairing instructors from various departments who work together to mentor students and provide a customized path of study that highlights use of ratios, measurements, proofs and patterns in non-math fields. Generally this type of hybrid study is done at the doctorate degree level, but some schools offer master degrees in interdisciplinary mathematics. Enrollees typically must have undergraduate math degrees, several graduate-level math courses and passing scores on interdisciplinary mathematics qualifying examinations. Graduates with interdisciplinary degrees in math can find jobs as consultants in industry or research.

One of the most common areas of interdisciplinary mathematics is mathematical biology, also known as biomathematics. This mathematics field uses data mining and mathematical projections to understand the growth and change of living entities, including bacteria. Genetic codes and diseases are also studied through mathematical biology. Biomathematics training is useful for careers in neuroscience, ecology and evolutionary biology.

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Financial mathematics is another style of interdisciplinary mathematics, preparing students for future careers in business or agriculture. Studies are focused on interpreting global financial markets, interest, investment statistics and risk management. Real-world applications for graduates of financial mathematics includes using computational models to track both linear and nonlinear behavior of consumers. Employers that recruit those with interdisciplinary mathematics degrees in finance include government agencies, utility companies and bankers. An additional division of interdisciplinary mathematics is operations research, which leverages computation techniques to shape to how executives design systems of management and operate agencies for efficiency.

There are five types of math skills that are primarily coveted for interdisciplinary work. The first is the use of objective and statistical means to identify problems; objective problem definition and the use of analytical techniques to provide solutions are two additional skills. Math experts bring two final skills: the ability to formulate theories and conduct experiments. Such skills can have universal appeal in other disciplines and can be easily used across job markets.

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