I’m breaking up with my oppressive professional society

I am a mathematician. Being a mathematician is a funny thing. When I tell people what I do for a living, they typically respond by telling me either “I used to be good at mathematics!” or, with an inevitably disapproving tone, “Oh. I hate math.” Regardless of society’s opinion of my job, the challenges and opportunities of human existence increasingly require quantitative tools. Math helps us build efficient power networks, create effective medicines, develop intervention strategies to support public health, animate movies, understand the workings of the human brain, and much more. Though mathematical tools are pivotally important for society, we are still finding our way when it comes to embracing the subject. After all, while the U.S. literacy rate is estimated at 99%, it remains socially acceptable to proclaim that one is simply “not a numbers person.” My deeply held belief is that anyone can do math.

Professional Societies

Many scholars belong to professional societies. In an ideal world, these societies support education, research, advocacy for the profession, and more. For my own field of mathematics, professional associations play an additional, critical role precisely because of the negative public image of our field. Some of the major mathematics societies in the U.S. include the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC), American Mathematical Society (AMS), the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM), the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (AMTE), the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), the National Association of Mathematicians (NAM), and Spectra.

Diversity Landscape in the Mathematical Sciences

The world of mathematics is neither a sufficiently diverse, equitable, nor inclusive place. Here are some quick facts and figures. Women account for roughly 40% of undergraduate mathematical sciences degrees, 30% of doctoral mathematical sciences degrees, and 20% of tenure-stream faculty at doctoral degree granting departments of mathematical sciences in the United States.

My Break-Up, Part 1

The Notices of the American Mathematical Society is one of the most widely-read mathematics publications in the world. In the December 2019 edition, Abigail Thompson, a Vice President of the AMS, published an invited essay critical of the use of diversity statements in faculty hiring within higher education.

My Break-Up, Part 2

Besides being a mathematician, I’m gay. Not just a little. I’m like seriously, deeply, unapologetically gay. And married. And a parent.

Break-Up and Rebound

AMS, I’m breaking up with you. My membership expires at the end of this year. I’ve decided not to renew. You know what saddens me most? It was not even a difficult decision to make.

Professor, data scientist, applied mathematician, social justice researcher and activist, nonprofit leader. See www.chadtopaz.com and www.qsideinstitute.org.