1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Applied or Pure Math for Future Teacher?

  1. Jan 1, 2014 #1
    Hi everyone!

    Thank you clicking on this thread.

    I am a community college student seeking to transfer by the end of this upcoming spring semester.
    I plan to major in math; my main goal is to become a high school teacher or community college professor.

    Only recently did I find out that there's a pure math track and applied math track. I already have a good idea of the difference between the two. My problem is, it seems I would enjoy applied math. Once I discovered how math can describe or be applied in the real world, it became a beautiful subject to me. Because I want to be a full-time teacher, I figured it'd also be neat to share applications with students so they also can learn to appreciate mathematics (because we all know many students fail to see why we need to learn math beyond the algebra level).

    Even so, I do realize the importance of some pure math courses and the need to understand and be able to do proofs.
    My aim is to truly be skilled at math in order to be a good teacher, but also gain knowledge as to how it is applied in the real world because that is how I've fallen in love with it.

    What do I do?
    I've heard I can major in both. What are your opinions?

    On a side note, do any of you know any liberal arts colleges (women's preferrably) that have strong math programs?

    Thank you all so much.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 2, 2014 #2
    In the same boat as you although I chose pure math. If your aim is to teach highschool then go towards applied math. If you ever concider that the amount of money you make is not great then I would go pure math with the aim of teaching at an university. Both are grwat fields. Although pure math is the hardest subject one can learn. It is a lifetime process.
  4. Jan 2, 2014 #3
    Im also curious. Up to what math have you completed in the community college? My advice is yo finish all of your calculus series and linear/differential at the cpmmunity because it is cheaper.
  5. Jan 2, 2014 #4
    I want to keep my options open; so I think I may just go into pure math.
    I was previously an English major (I've always been into literature and music), so I'm pretty behind in terms of math.
    In other words, I just finished Calculus I this semester, and will be doing Cal II this spring semester before I transfer.
    I'm in an Honors program that is only two years, so I can't really stay at my community college any longer.
  6. Jan 2, 2014 #5
    I think pure math is the better choice. Most math courses that you will teach at the high school or community college level will be very hand wavy, but as a matter of principle any teacher should know the theory behind the material at a deep level. Should someone who doesn't know how limits are defined teach calculus? Should someone who isn't familiar with algebraic structures teach algebra or complex numbers?

    Applied math undergraduate degrees generally emphasize computing, numerical methods, and memorizing techniques for solving DEs, and not so much on seeing the applications to the real world. If you want to understand what you are teaching but also be able to motivate it, I feel that the best thing would be to do a pure math degree but also take a bunch of physics courses.
  7. Jan 2, 2014 #6


    Staff: Mentor

    Before you decide to go pure math, make sure you really know what it is:


    Advanced pure math has a lot to do with definitions for groups, abstract algebras, geometries, topologies, real and complex analysis, number theory and proofs. The proofs can be very hard and very abstract usually too abstract for majority of people. As an example, abstract algebra goes way beyond solving algebraic equations and studies the structure and properties of an algebraic system with abstract operations.

    I took a course one time in Algebraic Topology and was totally lost (got a C out of kindness from the prof) even though I did quite well in applied math courses like calculus I,II,III, linear algebra, DE, Tensor Analysis, Boundary Value problems...

    Part of my difficulty was in thinking I could do the proofs without having taken the prereqs of set theory to learn how to formulate a proof and abstract algebra to work with definitions and properties and part was due to the abstractness of topology where I had trouble understanding how the definitions fit in with reality (I was a Physics major).

    For some proofs to look at check out the book called Proofs from the Book inspired by Paul Erdos and his belief that God had book of the most beautiful proofs.


    and for interesting math topics that hint at what you might study in an exciting tour-de-force summary:

    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook