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Can I learn Advanced Math at 30

  1. Feb 20, 2010 #1
    Hi all. This is my first post. I am a career changer. Long story how I got here, but I will tell you the short version.

    I have a B.A. in Political Science and a Teaching Certification In Social Studies. I owned my own business for about 7 years. Due to multiple reasons I have closed my business and I am now trying to find a rewarding career.

    I thought the most logical step after applying for almost every job you can think of for a years was to better my degree. I have been accepted into a MPA program at Rutgers University.

    When I was young I was excellent at Math and Science, but lacked parental gudiance and maturity, so I never pursued it. What I mean by excellent is, in 7th grade I took my SAT's because my math scores where so high on the CAT test (Top 1% of the Nation).

    My question is a 2 part question.

    1. If I start back at the begining, do you think it is possible to learn High level Math at my age? 31

    2.Do you think I am crazy to spend 2 years to get a second B.S., which would be in Math vs a Master degree in Public Adminstration.

    Thanks for any advice

  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 20, 2010 #2
    I'm sure you can do it, perseverance and maturity will go a long way. As to whether you are crazy, well, you gotta do what you gotta do. Of course there's a chance it won't turn out to be as rewarding as you thought it would be when you've been asked to prove hundreds of theorems you could give two poops about, with no reward in sight.
  4. Feb 20, 2010 #3
    I failed most of my first college level math classes, hated math, and obviously sucked at it.

    I am now 32 and in calc II and never score less than 95% on my tests. It's much easier now than when I was in my early 20's. I actually look forward to doing homework. :rofl:
  5. Feb 20, 2010 #4
    Awesome, thanks for the postive feedback.
  6. Feb 21, 2010 #5
    These posts always make me want to write a response like:

    "Oooohnoes! You're 31? That is like ancient, man!!!1!!1 If U R over, like, 25 there is noooo way U can learn real math, dude."

    I don't think your brain magically becomes incapable of learning at any age, unless you have a particularly early form of Alzheimer's.
  7. Feb 21, 2010 #6
    I would say the same as the others. I had a student that turned 35 during his training period of MSc in Theoretical Physics after being highschool-teacher in an irrelevant field for years (needs less than BA).

    It's more than doable, it's a good idea. Actually, you will probably give new insights to your scientific neighborhood as well.

    Good luck !
  8. Feb 21, 2010 #7
    i feel liek as though i and you mesh, bro.
  9. Feb 21, 2010 #8


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    Can you still make it up a flight of stairs at your old age? Some math departments don't have elevators.

    No seriously, being 31 doesn't make it more difficult to learn math at all, but it could make it more difficult to get accepted into a good Ph.D. program.
  10. Feb 21, 2010 #9
    Hey Poker-face. One thing that no one else has mentioned is that I would be surprised if you could finish a B.S. in math in just 2 years. This isn't saying you haven't got the talent, but most of the courses depend on each other, so there just isn't enough time to finish them. Plus, if you decide to go on to graduate school, 2 years just isn't a long enough time in my opinion to mature mathematically. Although, like others have said, you may progress faster because you're a more mature student.

    Get a book like Creative Mathematics by H.S. Wall and go through it. This will give you a very good taste at what your proof-based classes (i.e. math classes) will be like. There's also What is Mathematics? by Richard Courant. The Wall book presupposes nothing more than high school math. I'm a graduate student, and I still pick it up and go through it when I'm in the mood to relax by doing some math not related to school work.

    My best advice is to try and acquaint yourself with what higher level mathematics actually is to make sure you know what you're getting into. It is much abstract than most people think and isn't just computational calculus.
  11. Feb 23, 2010 #10
    I'm 35, in the first year of a PhD program at a second-tier (below elite) school. I wish I had decided to do this a dozen years ago, but "better late than never". I'll probably have at least a few good years between graduation and dementia. ;-)

    If I hadn't gone done this, I would have regretted it forever. If you think that's the case for you, then you'd better go for it!
  12. Feb 23, 2010 #11
    At most schools I think it would be very easy to finish the required math courses for a math degree in two years for someone with a bit of natural ability. Most math majors I know who are serious about the subject finish the requirements very early and spend the remaining two years (at least) taking courses beyond what is required.
  13. Feb 23, 2010 #12

    Care to explain a little more? They take 30 credit hours a semester?
  14. Feb 23, 2010 #13
    Maybe my original meaning was not clear.

    Most math departments will have a list of required math courses that one must get credit for, and then they may require that you take so many extra credit hours of mathematics but not pin down precisely what the courses must be. The math majors here who want to go to graduate school generally finish these particular requirements in the first two years and then spend the remaining two years finishing general education requirements and taking graduate courses.

    But maybe this is just a peculiarity of my school?

    Also, maybe I didn't understand n!kofeyn. When he said "most of the courses depend on each other" I assumed he was talking about the math courses and using this as a reason to suggest why it would be hard to finish the math courses in particular in two years. Apologies if I interpreted this wrongly.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2010
  15. Feb 23, 2010 #14
    Since I already have a Bachelors, and I plan on attending the same school I recieved my degree at, the only classes I need to take are for my new Math major. The problem is some are sequential, but I am not hung up one an extra semester or two. What keeps me up at night is if I am making the best decesion in regards to pursuing a Master's vs a Second Bachelors in Math. My heart is in the Math, but I keep second guessing it because they would both take around the same amount of time to complete. I know there is no crystal ball, but I figured I would get the opinion of some Math and Science people.

    Thanks for the many responses already.
    Also would like to here from anyone who might have went back for a second bachelors instead of a Masters

  16. Feb 24, 2010 #15


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    In what area would you be obtaining your Masters? Would you be investing 2 years into a subject (re the masters) about which you're no longer interested? A masters will look better on a resume than two bachelors degrees, but what is your goal for going back to school? :smile:

    Your heart seems to be with maths. Of course there are practical issues to consider, but if you can find a way to follow your passion and be practical, then I think you've a fulfilling future in maths. :smile:
  17. Feb 24, 2010 #16
    The Master's program that I have been accepted into is at Rutgers University. It is a Masters of Public Adminstration. Similiar to a MBA, but you would work in the public sector.

    There are some pros and cons to the degree. For one most people in the program already work for the government and are completing the degree for advancement. I am basically unemployed do to the recession. I do Substitute teach, but I only work a couple days a week. Secondly I live in NJ which the State is cutting jobs not hireing. The pros are it is a Master's vs another Bachelors.

    Pros and cons of the second math degree. Number one I look forward to learning about the subject matter. When I was young, "uncorrupted" i was very good at it. I already have a teaching certification in Social Studies, so I will be able to obtain my middle scool Cert with only about 3 more Math classes and my High School Cert with about 9 or 10 and full Bs with about 15.

    If i was 18 and heading of to college, teaching probably wouldn't be my first choice, but since i am 31 and have a wife and probably kids aren't far away the attainabilty and A cush schedule maked it pretty appealing.

    The amount of money i will make is not my primary reason for my decesion. Finding a good paying ($40,000 - $50,000)job after graduation and my interest in the subject matter are the 2 most important things in my decesion.

    The responses have been encouraging and I look forward to any additional advice.


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