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Can i be a mathematician if i'm not smart enough?

  1. Apr 14, 2013 #1
    I'm currently studying Mathematical Science and I found that it's hard for me to comprehend mathematical concepts without anyone explain them to me especially complex analysis and differential equations. I can spend days or weeks just to solve/prove a mathematical problem which most of my friends can solve it within 1 hour. My current CGPA is 3.0.

    I love mathematics and really want to pursue pure mathematics but my progress is just too slow compare to others... Now I doubt my ability and I'm really depressed... What should I do? Should I continue master or phd? Or just give up my dream?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 14, 2013 #2
    Maybe it is the problem with the specific subject and not you. Have you considered other areas of math, such as discrete math, algebra, geometry, topology, probability theory etc. ? If you can find some field of mathematics which you really enjoy and excel in, you can still specialize in that and make a name for yourself in it. It's ok if you're not good at certain branches of math, it doesn't mean you fail at math altogether. Math is a vast subject so it's hard to be a master in all of it.

    BiP
     
  4. Apr 14, 2013 #3
    I am convinced that everybody can learn mathematics. But I also think that to make a good mathematician, one has to be really "fast" about it. It is one thing to do math for your own satisfaction, and quite another to trail eternally behind more successful colleagues. A professionally successful mathematician typically obtains some good results when he is still young, so being proficient in early years is extremely important. Unless there is an area of mathematics that you master effortlessly and naturally, you should think really hard whether this is your true destiny professionally.

    Don't forget that there is always a place for math even if you do something else for a living. For Fermat, for example, it was but a hobby.
     
  5. Apr 14, 2013 #4
    Thank you all for the reply. I do like real analysis and abstract algebra a lot but I can't really say I'm excel in that two because there are still a lot of my friends who do better than me. Let say I decided to do mathematics for hobby, any idea what can I do with a bachelor in mathematical science?
    p/s: I don't like insurance.
     
  6. Apr 14, 2013 #5
    A BS in math is as good as any other one. You can still do pretty much anything you want after you get one. But it might be a good idea to think whether you have any other interests except pure math and elect some courses accordingly.

    And please take my previous comment with a grain of salt. When people transit from high-school math to university math, it will take them a while to adapt. I think you still have time to let that happen - but that won't come effortlessly!
     
  7. Apr 15, 2013 #6
    Why the fixation on speed? Yes, it cannot take you forever to cover the basic material. However, just because you get timed exams (and competitions) in school doesn't mean that discovery requires you to be really "fast."

    Whether you take 2 weeks or 20 years to prove the Riemann hypothesis will not matter at all...
     
  8. Apr 16, 2013 #7
    It won't matter for the mankind. For you, as a professional scientist, it will matter a lot.
     
  9. Apr 16, 2013 #8
    So, if someone is only capable of solving it in 20 years, they shouldn't even bother trying?
     
  10. Apr 16, 2013 #9
    This kind of argument is known as the "straw man". Don't do this.
     
  11. Apr 17, 2013 #10
    No, this kind of argument is called "taking the statement to its logical conclusion." Yes, I am exaggerating what you said, but you have to be careful about the more subtle implications of your statement. I have a longstanding quest to stamp out the misconception that one has to be "fast" at mathematics to succeed at it.
     
  12. Apr 17, 2013 #11
    This is not my statement and this does not follow from it. I never insinuated anything that could or should be understood as "you get a grand result now or never at all".

    Exactly.

    This is all about your definition of "succeed". I was talking about the pragmatic rather than the scientific aspect.
     
  13. Apr 17, 2013 #12
    Why do you think this is a misconception? I'm very slow at math and it hampered my ability all throughout college. I could never be a mathematician, Im far too slow and learning math and I'm not smart enough.
     
  14. Apr 17, 2013 #13

    AlephZero

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    Most working mathematicians don't spend their time thinking about big unsolved research problems. The earn their living by doing things where answers or advice are wanted to meet a deadline. You don't have to be the fastest person on earth, but if you can't get work done at an average rate you won't have a successful career.

    Even in academia, you have to get your lectures prepared and your tests created and marked on time!
     
  15. Apr 17, 2013 #14
    Speed and natural ability aren't completely irrelevant, but they are subservient to hard work.

    -Dave K
     
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