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Becoming good at math at age 20

  1. Jan 21, 2013 #1
    I'm 20 and joining collage this spring. I've taken only the minimum amount of math my math thinking is mediocre seriously and computer science requires a lot of math, mainly calculus, advanced functions and physics but i am really interested i always loved physics and computers is my thing so My question is this: can I still try hard and learn all that stuff :(
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 21, 2013 #2


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    Nobody knows. Everybody handles math quite differently from other people. I've seen many people who were able to grasp concepts immediately and play around with them. But I've also seen people hopelessly confused with very elementary concepts. And then there were people who were very mediocre in math and for whom it suddenly all clicked and who had much less problems.

    So nobody really knows what he's going to end up like. However, I can say that the ones who struggled were usually the people who never really did much effort and just wanted to get it over with.

    If you're genuinely interested and willing to put in a lot of effort, then chances are big that you will do good in your classes. Of course, there are many factors which contribute to success. A good learning method is another big factor. Getting help is another one: don't be afraid to ask for help with your fellow students, your professors, this forum, a tutor, etc. But always do try to figure it out yourself. Never just look at the solution without trying it yourself!!

    This forum is filled with people willing to help. Try to use this amazing resource!
  4. Jan 21, 2013 #3
    You can learn anything you want. I started advanced math courses (calculus and beyond) at a later age then 20. I also am interested in computer science, specifically the mathematics related to them.

    To be honest, while computer science does require math its usually the harder topics that are extremely math intensive. You should be pretty well off with calculus 1-3 and linear algebra.

    I think anyone is capable of doing the calculus sequence and even probably linear algebra its not too difficult. But you will have to work at it.

    I found the supplemental text The Calculus Lifesaver, very useful for my calculus 1 and 2 course.

    I also would suggest, you determine if its computer science that you like or software engineering. The two are not mutually exclusive, if your more interested in just cranking out software, maybe look into a software engineering or computer information systems style degree.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2013
  5. Jan 21, 2013 #4
    You can do anything you want and work for that. I am not going to take PUTNAM but I am also preparing for it from Selfstudy and online communities just for Fun.
  6. Jan 21, 2013 #5
    Thank you for the replies everyone this will keep me motivated. I will try my best to get a great GPA and I will make sure I do extra-curriculars so I hopefully get accepted into a great school like MIT or similar
  7. Jan 21, 2013 #6
    I am looking into computer science i have read a lot about it and i am really interested in something that branches out to a lot of carriers that interested me like game development and other and thanks for recommending the book i will definitely get it
  8. Jan 21, 2013 #7
    Absolutely. My parents were religious wingnuts that were convinced the end was nigh, and so took me out of elementary school to protect me from "satanic influences." I grew up without a math education. At 26 if you had asked me how to multiply a fraction by a fraction, or how to take a percentage of a number, I would've shrugged my shoulders and asked for a calculator.

    But then I decided I wanted to go back to school for science. I bought a couple of books on algebra, and with some help from Khan academy I got myself into shape mathematically. I didn't have to take any kind of remedial math, or even general math when I went back to school. I started on College Algebra, and I am now in Calculus two making straight A's.

    We westerners have some kind of cult of genius where we think it is all about innate talent that you either have or don't. But the reality is, everything is just hard work. Some people are gifted musically, and some mathematically but anybody can play piano or do calculus if they are willing to put the effort into it.

    also, 20 is young. You can still do anything.
  9. Jan 21, 2013 #8
    The most important math for a game developer is probably Linear Algebra. If that is what your aiming for make sure to take it. You will also want to pick up a course on C++, C# and even some DirectX and OpenGL experience.
  10. Jan 22, 2013 #9
    I did a B.A. in music. Then at 27 I decided that it wasn't right for me and went back to school for physics (where I'm at now). I've taken all the courses you mentioned and I absolutely ate them for breakfast. I don't attend MIT or anything, so it might not mean a whole lot, but I like to think of myself as having a very good grasp on the field of mathematics. I have taken all of the courses you mentioned and then some, and I ate them for breakfast. There is only one course where I did not rank first in the class. I simply love math and physics. I ENJOY studying (most of) the material. Just get started already. You aren't too old.

    Just ask micromass up there^. When I joined PF I didn't know anything. I think I managed a C in college algebra for my first degree. I'm taking Differential Geometry this semester! Me!

    While I'm sure there is some degree of pre-existing ability one must have to excel, the majority of it is simply practice and study. It's like lifting weights. It takes time and motivation. I think that Einstein "Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration (or whatever)" quote might be falsely attributed to Einstein, and perhaps a fallacy, but it stands true in this case.
  11. Jan 23, 2013 #10
    I know this wasn't your point, but I don't think anyone attributes that to Einstein lol. It was Edison.
  12. Jan 25, 2013 #11
    thank you guys thank god i joined this site really helps stay motivated i am dreaming of being one of the first professionals in my family and ill strive to make it become true (*game face*)
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