Making a Case for Math

By Lori Putnam

CI Math Club students and faculty

What do the top 15 highest-earning degrees have in common? They all involve math according to a 2009 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Yet despite the demand for math skills in today’s competitive job market, getting students to become interested—and stay interested—in math is a growing challenge for teachers nationwide.

Jennifer Waters wants you to know she understands. The CI math major serves as president of the Math Club this year, and she realizes that math doesn’t come easily to many people. “People are afraid of math,” says Waters, who came to Channel Islands from a career in the mortgage industry. “But once they break it down, it’s not that bad. For me, I enjoy and appreciate the logic behind math.”

Waters has been sharing both her knowledge and love of math as a tutor for almost 15 years, and it’s that enthusiasm that spills over into her work with the Math Club. Students majoring in Math, Computer Science, and Physics are automatically members of the club. However, according to Waters, any student is welcome to join. Activities range from the academic to the social, including a recent game board night to provide members with a much needed study break.

The Math Club was one of the first student clubs at CI according to Professor of Mathematics Ivona Grzegorczyk. She acknowledges the need for math majors and explained the club helps to foster relationships with students and faculty. “The major is hard. Club activities help make it easier for students to communicate and support each other.”

In the past, club members have attended conferences abroad including visits to Poland, Belgium, and Luxemburg. According to Grzegorczyk, these trips give students the opportunity to experience math in a new way. Once a year, Math Club members can also participate in a student exchange program with a Mexican university. This is yet another way for students to see how mathematics is viewed around the world.

At the end of the year, Math Club members also participate in the Putnam Competition. The exam, facilitated by the Mathematical Association of America, is designed to test originality as well as technical competence. Prize money of up to $25,000 is awarded to the math departments of the five winning teams.

“Many people consider math majors nerds,” laughs Grzegorczyk. “But it’s not true. It’s really nice for the students to build a social network together that will turn into a professional network after graduation.”

Waters agrees. “The club is a way for students to connect with the University. We all go to school, but it’s the extracurricular activities that make you feel attached to the University and the people there. It’s something I will remember when I graduate.”

For more information about the Math Club, email Waters at jen.waters559@dolphin.csuci.edu.