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Math Can I call myself a mathematician if I am a Maths tutor?

  1. Jul 22, 2017 #1

    tgt

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    So I have been tutoring maths for almost 10 years now and tutor a wide range of students including students doing Olympiad problems to upper undergraduate level students. I have a Master Degree in mathematics.

    Can I call myself a mathematician?
     
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  3. Jul 22, 2017 #2

    phinds

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    Why not? There are no licensing laws for mathematicians and you're working as a mathematician.
     
  4. Jul 23, 2017 #3

    symbolipoint

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    You are putting too much attention on finding a label. Master's degree? Done some research in Mathematics? Maybe you are a mathematician. Maybe not. Your students might have the point of view that you are a Mathematician; but this label is unnecessary.
     
  5. Jul 23, 2017 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    I think you're working as a teacher of mathematics, which is not the same as mathematician.
     
  6. Jul 23, 2017 #5
    In most cases, designations like physicist, mathematician, chemist, and biologist are reserved for those doing active research in their field. Most of the time, a mathematician would have a record of scholarly papers that resulted from their research - though other evidences of active scholarship might also suffice - patents, inventions, etc. Since most PhDs require significant research, a PhD in mathematics would also tend to qualify one to describe themselves as a mathematician.

    Even though I served on the Math faculty of the Air Force Academy, I never really considered myself a mathematician, but rather as a mathematical scientist - one who used existing mathematics to address numerous interesting problems in various natural sciences - physics, brain injury, ballistics, and fisheries science mostly, but also taking forays into environmental sciences and other areas. For me, a mathematician is one who develops new mathematics.

    One student I mentor works as a math tutor and has published seven peer-reviewed papers spanning several areas of physics and mechanical engineering. Given his scholarly record, it would be appropriate for him to refer to himself as either a physicist or a mechanical engineer. Referring to himself as a mathematician would not be quite right.

    Another student I've mentored has published most of her scholarly work in either chemistry or physics. She has one published paper in mathematics, but given the lack of ongoing work in mathematics and her current research focus in chemistry, she tends to view herself as a chemist.

    At least in the US, scholarship and publication (rather than teaching) tend to be the key things people expect when one has a designation as a mathematician or specific kind of scientist.
     
  7. Jul 23, 2017 #6
    One issue to consider is the reason why it's important to you to designate yourself a "mathematician". Is it simply to bolster your resume or give yourself more prestige at a school reunion (e.g., you think that "mathematician" sounds more impressive than "math tutor" or "math instructor" or "math teacher")? Or are you applying for a job that requires X yrs experience as a mathematician?
     
  8. Jul 23, 2017 #7

    tgt

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    Just trying to convey to others that I am serious about maths. I do tutor some difficult mathematics subjects. But seems like that is not a good enough reason to be labeled as a mathematician?
     
  9. Jul 23, 2017 #8

    Vanadium 50

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    I'm serious about politics. Doesn't make me a politician.
    I'm serious about dance. Doesn't make me a dancer.
    I'm serious about cars. Doesn't make me a race car driver.
     
  10. Jul 23, 2017 #9

    Choppy

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    Most people won't care.

    Among academics and STEM professionals though, the title tends to imply more than tutoring advanced topics. And if you want to be taken seriously in such circles, using the title is likely to work against you rather than for you.
     
  11. Jul 23, 2017 #10

    Krylov

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    Would not calling yourself or being called a mathematician frustrate you? In my opinion, a good mathematics tutor can contribute a lot more to mathematics than a mediocre mathematician.

    If your ambitions go beyond tutoring, then why not initiate some research of your own and submit the results to a mathematics journal for review and possible publication? With a master's degree it should be possible to at least get started.
     
  12. Jul 23, 2017 #11

    mathwonk

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    as a young man interested in magic (conjuring), I took to heart a statement that "if you can do one trick well, you are a magician". I would suggest that if you have had any original insights within mathematics, or solved any significant problems yourself, then you are at least an amateur mathematician. But tutoring and enjoying it goes a long way too.
     
  13. Jul 24, 2017 #12
    <<Emphasis added>>
    Ah, but who constitute "others"? Current students? Potential new students? Potential employers? Family and friends? Former classmates? STEM professionals? Random people you meet? There's an underlying issue if you feel that introducing yourself as a "math tutor" is not good enough for you.

    ETA:
    FWIW, a couple of years ago, I considered a career switch to tutoring. In my area, there are a lot of rich dumb kids, and parents are willing to shell out $150/hr. Not bad at all.
     
  14. Jul 24, 2017 #13

    Demystifier

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    Maybe it's about making money for living by using certain knowledge. If you make money mostly by using knowledge of mathematics, then you are a mathematician.
     
  15. Jul 24, 2017 #14

    Vanadium 50

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    I don't think I buy that argument. Was Howard Cosell a football player?
     
  16. Jul 24, 2017 #15

    Demystifier

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  17. Jul 24, 2017 #16

    Vanadium 50

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    He made money describing what football players did. A tutor of mathematics describes what mathematicians did. I think the distinction is valuable in both cases.
     
  18. Jul 24, 2017 #17
    So you would consider an accountant to be properly designated as a mathematician? Or, for that matter, a 4th-grade math teacher?
     
  19. Jul 24, 2017 #18

    Demystifier

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    I thought tutor is someone who tells mathematicians how to do it. Something more like a coach.
    Is a football coach a football player? In some sense I think he is.
     
  20. Jul 24, 2017 #19

    Demystifier

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    Can I add "advanced" in front of mathematics?
    Is a high-school math teacher a mathematician? I would say - yes.
     
  21. Jul 24, 2017 #20
    Calling math teachers "mathematicians" is an easily defensible position, in that I doubt you could ever get any math teacher convicted of perjury for describing themselves as a "mathematician" under oath.

    But that's not really the point under discussion. The point under discussion is whether such a self-designation is likely to be viewed as reasonable by the likely audiences AND whether the term communicates better (more accurately) than other candidates.

    Consider the famous mathematicians such as Pythagoras, Newton, Leibniz, Hilbert, etc. They are notable for their research accomplishments. None is famous for their teaching alone.

    Consider the famous math teachers such as Escalante and Khan. They are famous, and deservedly so, for their contributions to math education.

    So while a math teacher may reasonably refer to themselves as a "mathematician" they won't be fooling anyone who looks at their CV or plugs their name into a scholarly search engine.
     
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