Math majors are beginning to break away from the pack in the race among students to relate their degrees to future employment. Many are hotly pursued by pinstriped recruiters waving lucrative job offers.
Businesses are gobbling up math experts, spurred on by the computer revolution and a need for ''problem-solvers.'' The demand is growing geometrically, with job offers increasing at a rate of over 10 percent a year by one estimate.
''There is an intense amount of mathematization of whole areas - pharmaceuticals, technical areas - that can be described mathematically with the aid of computers, but can't be handled analytically,'' says Hirsh Cohen, president of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. ''The quantum jump in the way mathematics can be applied has opened up whole new fields.''
The computer is central to industry's increased interest in mathematicians.
''The theoretical side of math continues to grow,'' says Dr. William Leveque, executive director of the American Mathematical Society. ''What is happening is that in many sciences the workers are discovering that sophisticated mathematical tools will help them solve their problems.''
At Boeing, Dr. Paul Ruppert, manager of aerodynamic-methods research, says he has taken to hiring the ''pure guys.'' Pure mathematicians now comprise about 50 percent of his work force, formerly made up almost exclusively of aerodynamicists. The mathematicians use computational aerodynamics to solve equations having to do with air flow.