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Can I be a math major?

  1. Apr 22, 2012 #1
    I am thinking of doing a math inclined major but I dont know if I can handle it. I got a b- in algebra and now I have precalculus.

    In my precalc class I had 4 test and I got a 71,74,77, and an 82 on them and all I have left is a final.

    Do I have the chance to be a math major or will it be too hard?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 22, 2012 #2
    I think that you need to solidify your weak spots, before even thinking about a math-intensive major. Review all of your exams and try to identify why you missed each problem. If you don't know your foundational maths well, then you will suffer immensely in Calculus.
  4. Apr 22, 2012 #3
    There is a whole back story to your less than exceptional performance, and the answer to your question relies on it. If you were out partying, never studying, playing video games, never opened the book, etc. then the answer is "Yes, if you stop doing that stuff and focus a bit." If you studied hours upon hours, examined supplements, had a private tutor, etc. then there might be a problem with your career choice. It's likely you are somewhere in the middle of these two extremes in which case you will just have to assess whether you could have turned it around (and therefore whether you can move into a math degree).

    Another component is what those numbers mean, exactly. If you are in the top of your class with those grades, then obviously that throws the entire analysis out the window. I am assuming ~70 = C and that there is as a best case scenario a Gaussian distribution about the grade C. (In HS, there is usually a huge concentration of A/B followed by fewer C then almost no D or F. That is the worst case scenario for you.).
  5. Apr 22, 2012 #4
    Well, it is hard to say. The math you have done now is basically different from the math you will do as a math major. It isn't that the math you do as a math major is somehow harder, or something, it is just unlike anything you have done so far.

    Unless you are lucky, your entire math 'education' has consisted of memorising a bunch of ways to manipulate x's any y's; perhaps with a little reasoning. If you decide to major in math, things will get very different. This can be good or bad. If you are 'good' at just memorising a bunch of stuff and then regurgitating it, but can't do anything else, math is not for you.

    So, in summary, I have no idea if you 'can' major in math because I don't think any course you have taken is a very good predictor of future success in 'real' math..
  6. Apr 22, 2012 #5
    I did study I would say a fair amount. I do not know I think my weakness in math is that when I am taking a test I feel really confident like I am going to make an A and then I make a c.
    I guess I should do a different career than math even through it does interest me.
  7. Apr 22, 2012 #6
    If you feel like you are making an A, and then make a C, then it's probably a good indication that you have some incorrect information stored as fact. I wouldn't count being a mathematics major out entirely, but you should definitely go back through and figure out what mistakes you are making. Problems in understanding algebra will continue to impede you in any course you take afterwards.
  8. Apr 22, 2012 #7
    http://www.hergoods.info/avatar1.jpg [Broken]I think that you need to solidify your weak spots, before even thinking about a math-intensive major.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  9. Apr 22, 2012 #8
    I want to stress again that it is close to impossible to determine how you will do as a math major. I suggest that over the summer you pick up a book on Abstract Algebra (a few weeks ago, I probably would have said not to do this, that it was too advanced, but I have been convinced otherwise.) Work through the first few sections. If you like it and it seems you are grasping it (though, don't get discouraged if it takes like 2 hours or more to get through a theorem and its proof) then read more of the book and try to go on in math.

    But, whatever you do, don't use your current experience to judge your future experience. Like most of us, at this stage you haven't actually taken a math class (at least not like the ones you will take as a math major).
  10. Apr 22, 2012 #9
    I'm assuming you're in Highschool. I've heard from numerous people in my school that Algebra II is one of the easiest math classes available. Getting a B- in it isn't good. I, myself, am going to study it over the summer and test out so I will be put in Pre-Calc nexy year(sophomore year). You should really look into doing various things over the course of the summer involving mathematics. I'm having a friend help me learn Calc 1 over the summer and over the course of my sophomore year. I do have to self-study Alg II over the summer which shouldn't be that difficult. The hardest part is the motivation factor. And don't change your mind about career paths. If something interest you then follow those interest.
  11. Apr 22, 2012 #10
    I think largely your answer is going to, unfortunately, have to be introspective. It is not really possible to determine your future potential based upon the highly variable quality of education, test structure, and mere factors of happenstance.

    That said, from my experience in university, many who are now relatively good mathematics majors did both well and poorly in secondary school. You must ask yourself whether indeed you really are interested in mathematics, if so then why, and then analyse your own particular character as honestly as possible asking yourself if you have the needed temperament. Many who fail do so not merely because of their lack of competency, though this does happen, but because they do not have the patience for academic studies. If you do this and conclude you still want to continue, though you may still reasonably have perfectly understandable doubts and concerns, you should go for it.

    Depending on the type of mathematics one studies, and their own particular strengths, it can be hard or not. Often, many do well with the higher degree of abstract generalisation of pure where some may find difficulty in, some others still in the more concrete numerical methods of applied mathematics. Thus, consider what kind of mathematics interests you and whether you are confident in your abilities to learn it.

    One caveat, since you did not mention why you wanted to study mathematics, except maybe interest, also consider what is the essence of what it is you want to study. Many who start of in physics, for example, later switch to philosophy because what interested them was more philosophical in nature than scientific.

    Having said all this, do consider this advice as vital which is probably the best advice I think anyone can really give to an aspiring student: study, study like mad. Not merely for your exams, but out of interest as well. The worst that can happen is that you fail, but you will be a more knowledgeable and therefore better person for it.
  12. Jun 10, 2012 #11
    I agree with ingenvector that much of the process of deciding a direction for your future education goals involves looking inward. However, don't neglect one the most important aspects of life, namely relationships. How well do you get along with your math instructors and advisers ? Do you study with classmates that are more knowledgeable than you are ? Do you work with a tutor ?

    These people can help you to understand where you are and where you need to go in your math progression and point out your areas of weakness.
  13. Jun 17, 2012 #12
    Are you in college or high school? I wouldn't worry about it much if you're still in high school--you have time to study more and get a good understanding of the math you need. If you're in college, I would be more concerned that you'll run out of time than that you won't be able to handle the math. Most of the math majors at my school got through multivariable calculus or even further by the end of their first year. But I picked up math a bit late and have gotten along okay so far, more or less, so it's not impossible.

    As for your skill level vs. the level of difficulty, I can't really say. If you do a math-y science, it would help you a lot to be good at basic algebra, trig, calculus, etc. If you do a math major specifically, you'll eventually move away from that sort of thing and get more into proofs and mathematical logic. But even if you have a calculator or something like Mathematica at your disposal, it's good to be able to crunch the numbers by hand. I can't tell you how many times I've screwed up my homework because I could handle the theory but I fudged the ninth-grade algebra part of the problem.
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