Throughout the history of humanity’s technological development, mathematics has been a catalyst for innovation. Some mathematical truths may take a long time to be completed or proven, but Irene Alda, academic director of the Bachelor in Applied Mathematics at IE School of Science & Technology, believes they are absolutely fundamental to our progress—past, present and future. Everything from the buildings in which we live and study to the computers we use for work and play would have been impossible to create without the innovative power of mathematics.

Irene, a self-proclaimed “science geek,” has had a passion for STEM subjects since childhood—math in particular. Thanks to her physicist father, STEM was an ever-present fixture throughout her formative years, even as she moved between her home country of Spain and the US, where she completed some of her studies.

That probably explains why Irene is such a keen advocate of getting more women into the STEM field. She sees mathematics in particular not just as a driver of innovation, but as a critical skill in business. Its greatest value lies in its potential for converting theoretical knowledge into real-world solutions. For Irene, the effective application of math in the business world and beyond first requires a balanced education in the subject. And that’s exactly what the Bachelor in Applied Mathematics at IE University provides.

Irene Alda IE University

A different perspective

Irene acknowledges that one of the challenges of studying math at higher levels is the shift in perspective and the new educational approach that students encounter when they enter university. “Often, mathematics in school is more ‘computational’—follow these steps and you’ll get the correct result. When you arrive at university, mathematics becomes more abstract and proof-based,” she explains. “You probably thought mathematics was about numbers, but when you reach university there are almost no numbers. You’ll need to become acquainted with mathematical language, and it’s very normal that students find this difficult at the beginning.”

Although it may sound like this kind of mathematics deals only with abstract concepts, nothing could be further from the truth for students of the Bachelor in Applied Mathematics. IE University’s unique methodology provides a hands-on, practical approach to this complex subject, ensuring that students are equipped to apply their skills in any area they are passionate about. That’s why the study plan contains transversal subjects like entrepreneurship, technology and communication, while the elective concentrations include choices in industrial or financial mathematics.

Be prepared for the challenge

To help potential students prepare for the rigors of this program, Irene offers some tips. The first is simply to build a strong background in mathematical concepts. “Being fluent in mathematical terminology and symbols will be a great asset to students entering the program, since these are widely used in class and will help you follow all the sessions.” But she says the most important element for success is a passion for science and mathematics: “Mindset is everything!”

Irene understands that this is a challenging program, but says that success requires perseverance. Students often tell her they initially have a hard time grasping complex topics such as linear algebra. “It’s ok if you leave the classroom without having understood everything that was taught, at first,” she says. “But it’s important that you do leave class with an idea of the different concepts described. Through exercises and studying, everything starts to ‘click’ and make sense. You’ll be exposed to more proofs and begin to develop your logical and abstract intuition.”

Irene Alda IE University

Abstract but absolute

Irene argues that what seem like abstract principles in mathematics have in fact informed our technological advancement throughout history. “Mathematics is built upon core axioms—you can think of them as absolute truths,” she explains. “Some proofs, such as Fermat’s last theorem, have taken centuries to be completed. But from these, you can show that a conclusion is true.”

So, though the numbers may largely have been replaced with letters and symbols in the Bachelor in Applied Mathematics, the truths they reveal are very much the key to our progress and innovation. And the demand for professionals who can unlock those truths is growing faster than ever.

Given its hands-on, practical approach, which focuses on applying the discipline to the professional world, Irene says this is the degree she would have chosen if it had been available when she was entering higher education. Fortunately for our students, she is now ready to guide them through this unique program that imparts versatile skills, offers internship and exchange opportunities, provides practical experience, and allows students to tailor their studies to suit their future career goals.

We look forward to seeing how our Bachelor in Applied Mathematics graduates use the skills they have learned and their innovative mindsets to shape their own futures.