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Math Advice for a wannabe mathematician

  1. Jun 27, 2011 #1
    For the past 2 years, I've wanted to become a mathematician, but I've become overawed by the sheer number of prodigies that have made it large in the subject....Gauss, Riemann, Ramunajan etc. I'm no prodigy and I'm in my last year of school(my age is 16)......I've always had been proficient at maths, deriving quite a few geometrical formulae without help, proving L'Hopital's Rule through Lagrange's mean value theorem(I later learnt the intermediate step is Cauchy's mean value theorem) etc. However my grades before my 10th year weren't reflective of that(I used to average A- but now it's improved to A+).....Lately I've been studying a lot of college mathematics like Spivak, Courant, Artin, Herstein, Strang, Hardy& Wright etc. But I'm not sure whether I'll ever make it big.....Many of the leading mathematicians of the day seem to be IMO medallists, but I learned about the IMO a few months back! Although I've signed up for the IMO qualification exam, I'm worried that if I don't do well, it may mean I'm a bad mathematician....Any advice??
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 27, 2011 #2
    Your success on the qualification exam is no way to measure your potential as a mathematician. I suggest you work hard. There is no one-way ticket to become a top mathematician.

    And quite frankly, you don't need to be a world-class mathematician to actually do mathematics. You can always aim for the best, but try to follow your passion regardless of your "status" as a future mathematician.

    Good luck.
  4. Jun 27, 2011 #3


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    My advice to you is to not think about becoming one of the greats.

    There is nothing wrong with admiration. I think admiration of others is something that can be used in a good way. Lots of people enter fields and become successful through the successes of people before them which give the younger generation something to strive for and excel far beyond what has been accomplished.

    But if you are solely focused on becoming great, that's probably not a good idea. You might never become "great" in anyone elses mind, and if that is what you are expecting, you'll probably end up in a real mess.

    It sounds like you like math anyways, which is great. It means that you'll probably spend a lot of time reading, pondering, and doing math simply because you are naturally inclined to do so.

    I sincerely wish you the best, and I know that even if you don't get there sooner rather than later, you will achieve something and don't underestimate any achievement you make no matter how insignificant it may seem.
  5. Jun 28, 2011 #4
    The greats are only remembered when they're dead. So you won't even know if your work will be great or not. For all you know, your work won't have application at all in your era but 300 years down the road, you might be considered a "great" because your work is useful then.

    Do you see where i'm getting at? Let's put it this way. It's more or less the journey rather than the end of the road that counts. If you're having fun, then whatever.. If not, well.. you shouldn't be in that field anyway.
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