If you’re a regular reader or contributor to this blog, you probably agree that mathematics have an indispensable role in the social sciences. Lately, however, I’ve been thinking a lot about something: what kind of mathematical tools do sociologists of the future require?
The reason I’ve been thinking about this is a talented undergraduate who is strongly considering going to grad school in sociology. Interestingly, part of what has moved him in that direction seems to have been two classes he’s taken with me. The first was the required undergraduate statistics class and the second a substantive class that includes a lot of network analysis, structural theory, and associated material. As it turns out, it’s entirely possible to teach Mayhew & Levinger to undergraduates. Who knew? In any case, in this second class he’s gotten a strong sense that sociology involves a lot of math and this excites him. I’m all for it, since this student is very smart and we need more mathematically-gifted grad students. Yesterday during a conversation, though, he asked me what sorts of math he should be thinking about taking as he prepares for graduate school. I gave him my answers- and an regression analysis textbook to work through during winter break- but I wonder what others think.
If you could somehow start over again in the field, what areas of mathematics would you make sure you learned right from the start?