• Support PF! Buy your school textbooks, materials and every day products via PF Here!

Programs Am I not smart enough to major in math?

  • Thread starter pm1010
  • Start date
6
0
I am currently a junior at an ivy league school. I began college as a pre-med/molecular biology major. I fell in love with math and felt that I should be a math major; I really enjoy all of my classes and am having a lot of fun learning.

My grades, however, are not so good. I seem to have a strong grasp on the material when I am talking to my professors or peers, but I perform rather poorly on exams.

Here are my grades:

Calculus I-III: A
Calculus IV: B
Linear Algebra: B+
Graph Theory (Graduate): B

I am currently enrolled in Analysis I, Combinatorics, and Mathematical Logic (Graduate). For Analysis, I got a C+ on the last two exams (even though I felt I understood the material well in class and on the homework assignments. Also some of the mistakes were very stupid on my part: for example I forgot to write "arbitrary" for one proof and I accidentally put intersection instead of union, even though it was obvious my argument was contingent on using the union of the sets).

This, and my grades in my math classes, makes me fear that I am not smart enough for this major.

Any thoughts will be greatly appreciated.
 
491
2
Seems like you just make mistakes. I think it's a problem focusing, if you can do math as well as you are, understand the material, etc. at an ivy league school I would say you're good enough at math.

Lots of people have the problem you have. Sometimes it just takes a different mindset when going into a test, sometimes you need to study more or better, can't know what works because everyone's different.
 
598
0
As you yourself explained you are smart enough. Just shape up on the tests.
 
It seems like you are jumping to conclusions. I'd say if you truly love math, do it. You can work harder and you will start learning where you mess up and catching your mistakes. You are going to an Ivy League school so presumably the classes are harder, so cut yourself some slack and just work harder in the future. Learn from your mistakes, and continue to love your education.

Consider this:
Imagine you switch your major. Will you regret it? Will you look back 5, 10 years from now and wonder why you didn't stick with mathematics?

Also, who says you have to be "smart" for your major? Being a mathematician or not being a mathematician does not make you smart or stupid. Being a good scholar, a person who can learn and faces challenges head on, I think that makes you "smart", and I think if your in something that you love, you will be more likely to work hard and to absorb the information, which leads to you being "smart."
 
382
4
The mistakes you are citing seem pretty minor. What do you honestly think you would have gtten had you nmot made them? Did you know how to anwer all the questions?
 
115
1
I do KNOW that I am not cut out to be a math major, so I have long given up on my dreams to second major in math :D My performance on math examinations were so horrible, despite acing the continual assessments.

My grades in math are terrible compared to the rest of my transcript (average A-/A)
Engineering math I: B
Engineering math II: B+
Probability: B+

For probability, I studied so hard that I was completely sure before the examination that I had to get A+. I scored 100% for a killer test, for which the average mark was 50%. I was good enough to even teach my classmates. But I was shocked when I saw the final exam paper...I couldn't do half of it. In the end my final grade was pulled down from a A+ to B+.

I have not figured out exactly why my brain refuses to work as usual in a math exam. It took me a very long time to convince myself that I did not suck at math. After two semesters away from a theoretical math class, I will be returning to tackle discrete maths, mathematical stats and linear algebra next semester.

I hope it works out for the both of us! I completely understand your feeling
 
1,644
2
If you make "B"s, stick with it. Nothing wrong with it.
 
658
2
I am currently a junior at an ivy league school. I began college as a pre-med/molecular biology major. I fell in love with math and felt that I should be a math major; I really enjoy all of my classes and am having a lot of fun learning.

My grades, however, are not so good. I seem to have a strong grasp on the material when I am talking to my professors or peers, but I perform rather poorly on exams.

Here are my grades:

Calculus I-III: A
Calculus IV: B
Linear Algebra: B+
Graph Theory (Graduate): B

I am currently enrolled in Analysis I, Combinatorics, and Mathematical Logic (Graduate). For Analysis, I got a C+ on the last two exams (even though I felt I understood the material well in class and on the homework assignments. Also some of the mistakes were very stupid on my part: for example I forgot to write "arbitrary" for one proof and I accidentally put intersection instead of union, even though it was obvious my argument was contingent on using the union of the sets).

This, and my grades in my math classes, makes me fear that I am not smart enough for this major.

Any thoughts will be greatly appreciated.
Um, a B in a Graduate class as a Junior and you're thinking of changing majors? *smack* :smile:
 
1,033
1
Grades shouldn't be the primary way you judge your progress through university in my mind.

If you are learning and grasping concepts, then that is what is important.
 
6
0
Thank you, everyone, for your responses :).

deluks917, based on my professor grading system, I would have gotten an A- or B+, if I had not committed the mistakes that I mentioned here. But, I didn't :(. There were many students in my class who scored in the A through B- range. This makes me feel much worse than if many people had done poorly.

As far as the other mistakes go, I do understand why my proofs were erroneous. I usually miss a word here or there, or do not state things explicitly (for example, on my last exam, the professor took 50% of the points off of one question because I simply stated that, in a particular proof, the intersection of two sets is disjoint, when he wanted me to say non-equal and disjoint).

I do love what I am studying; but, I sometimes begin to think that maybe I am not smart enough to get into a PhD program--which is what I had planned on pursuing after the completion of my undergraduate degree (because of the grades).

Every time I have talked to a professor about the requisite grades for a math PhD program, they tell me grades are a very small component, and recommendations matter the most. But, surely it cannot be a coincidence that most of the grad students I know (or whose CVs I have looked up while browsing other universities' websites) state that they graduated with some type of Latin Honors, right?
 
323
0
Thank you, everyone, for your responses :).

deluks917, based on my professor grading system, I would have gotten an A- or B+, if I had not committed the mistakes that I mentioned here. But, I didn't :(. There were many students in my class who scored in the A through B- range. This makes me feel much worse than if many people had done poorly.

As far as the other mistakes go, I do understand why my proofs were erroneous. I usually miss a word here or there, or do not state things explicitly (for example, on my last exam, the professor took 50% of the points off of one question because I simply stated that, in a particular proof, the intersection of two sets is disjoint, when he wanted me to say non-equal and disjoint).

I do love what I am studying; but, I sometimes begin to think that maybe I am not smart enough to get into a PhD program--which is what I had planned on pursuing after the completion of my undergraduate degree (because of the grades).

Every time I have talked to a professor about the requisite grades for a math PhD program, they tell me grades are a very small component, and recommendations matter the most. But, surely it cannot be a coincidence that most of the grad students I know (or whose CVs I have looked up while browsing other universities' websites) state that they graduated with some type of Latin Honors, right?

Umm no. I guess you going to an Ivy League school and being "about" average with your other classmates makes you think that you aren't good enough for math. By looking at your grades, it seems apparent that you are. If you really love math and have the desire to do well and improve on your mistakes, then you CAN do it. Silly test errors are very common. I personally am never in a "comfortable" mood when I am in a middle of a timed test, and I generally make at least 1 careless mistake. This is just the result of test anxiety, and I think its fairly common(among people who study a lot and really care about the outcome of all their hard work).

I mean your a junior and you made a B in a graduate class?? come on man thats impressive in my book.
 
6
0
I've been told by several math grad students that anything less than an A- in a graduate course is a bad grade. I've seen this on forums such as collegeconfidential.com as well. Their reasoning was that graduate classes have very, very few people getting below a B-. Is this a myth?
 
445
0
I've been told by several math grad students that anything less than an A- in a graduate course is a bad grade.
Maybe for grad students, but juniors? You seem to be doing very well. good luck in the future.
 
I've been told by several math grad students that anything less than an A- in a graduate course is a bad grade. I've seen this on forums such as collegeconfidential.com as well. Their reasoning was that graduate classes have very, very few people getting below a B-. Is this a myth?
It's not a myth. A grade below B means you probably should NOT be taking the class to start with, and below B grade is almost like failing in grad standard. There is little reason why a prof would give out non-A and non-B's in grad classes since grade matters much less in grad school than in undergrad. In my understanding, in a grad class, A = you know what you are doing, B = you know a little bit about what you are doing, C = you don't know what you are doing. If a prof gives out C to a student, he/she thinks the student should not be in the graduate program (since most program requires at the very least a B average). So a B- in a grad class is almost like a D, in the sense that a student just barely passed the class.
 

Dembadon

Gold Member
607
89
I've been told by several math grad students that anything less than an A- in a graduate course is a bad grade. I've seen this on forums such as collegeconfidential.com as well. Their reasoning was that graduate classes have very, very few people getting below a B-. Is this a myth?
Emphasis mine

Unless it has changed significantly in the past two years, do yourself a favor and leave that site alone; it's poorly moderated, if at all, and threads usually devolve into flame wars.

From the information you've provided, I think you're doing fine. Attitude is very important and you seem to have a desire for excellence. Many (I'd say most) make stupid mistakes from time to time on exams, but that's no reason to quit one's program.
 
20
0
I looked at a few of your other posts but it seems as if you went to a community college before transferring to your school? Sorry if this is offensive to anyone, but that's might a big part of why you are having trouble - depending on your previous classes, you might not have adjusted to the demands of higher level math classes yet. Unless you're like a genius it's going to take a while to make the adjustment, especially when you're going from a community college to an Ivy.

Also, if you go to a school known for grade deflation, like Princeton or Cornell, I would not be worrying at all, since you're grades are really good. Maybe try to make sure you do well on the analysis final if you haven't taken it yet. Also, how are your logic and combinatorics classes going? It could just be that you either don't really have an aptitude for analysis, or based on your description of the grading, is not done very well. And if you're really worried, I would think as long as you take another analysis class and do well, no one will really care about this one.
 
6
0
Actually, I was at Cornell initially. I transferred to a community college because of financial reasons.

I have no idea what is going on with those classes--for combinatorics I typically have the highest grade (but the class is only 5 people), but the grades I get are still rather low--they will be around the 75%-85% range. For logic, the professor says homework is not factored into our grade (but then he says some problems are worth more than others...). The main component will be a take home final, which he has yet to create.

I do plan to take Analysis II, but it is with the same professor, which implies a similar, strange grading system.
 
1,644
2
I looked at a few of your other posts but it seems as if you went to a community college before transferring to your school? Sorry if this is offensive to anyone, but that's might a big part of why you are having trouble - depending on your previous classes, you might not have adjusted to the demands of higher level math classes yet. Unless you're like a genius it's going to take a while to make the adjustment, especially when you're going from a community college to an Ivy.

Also, if you go to a school known for grade deflation, like Princeton or Cornell, I would not be worrying at all, since you're grades are really good. Maybe try to make sure you do well on the analysis final if you haven't taken it yet. Also, how are your logic and combinatorics classes going? It could just be that you either don't really have an aptitude for analysis, or based on your description of the grading, is not done very well. And if you're really worried, I would think as long as you take another analysis class and do well, no one will really care about this one.
Although I transferred from a junior college Spring 2009, I can attest to the much-higher demands of the higher-level physics courses I took this semester (QM and Mechanics). However, I have taken Differential Equations and Vector Analysis at my university. The physics courses seemed to be more difficult and time-intensive.
 

Related Threads for: Am I not smart enough to major in math?

Replies
8
Views
8K
Replies
7
Views
753
  • Posted
2
Replies
36
Views
23K
Replies
49
Views
18K
  • Posted
Replies
7
Views
3K
Replies
9
Views
2K

Physics Forums Values

We Value Quality
• Topics based on mainstream science
• Proper English grammar and spelling
We Value Civility
• Positive and compassionate attitudes
• Patience while debating
We Value Productivity
• Disciplined to remain on-topic
• Recognition of own weaknesses
• Solo and co-op problem solving
Top