Changing Day


... to graduate school.
Homework Helper
Gold Member
Alright, let's start a new thread.

I'm curious to know where the passion for mathematics came about in your life. When was it clear that you wanted to be a mathematician (although you may not be one yet)?

Most mathematicians have the story of reading a particular book that had very insightful/interesting things in it regarding mathematics. The ideas alone were enough to lure some of the brightest people into the world of mathematics.

Although I may not be bright, I would have to say my story is similiar, but the book is not quite at the caliber other great mathematicians started with.

My love for mathematics all started while attending Business School where I was on my way to become an Accountant. I came out of high school with very bad grades (probably worse than you're thinking right now). So, as you guessed it, the Business School did not have the greatest reputation. Nevertheless, they taught me business, and what I learned remains valuable.

While attending Business School, I made a deal with myself that I would try and the first step was to show up to class. (I never went to class in high school.) :uhh: So, I tried and I was doing very well. So good, the school was making me sick. I wanted to struggle to get an A! Therefore, I decided to transfer to a reputable Business School, which I was now capable of doing. The problem was... I needed a Calculus credit to get in.

Since I was in a hurry, I went for the independent self-study calculus credit because I can finish it as fast as I'd like. The book that they gave me was the book that changed everything. I was amazed just after chapter 2 alone. The simple idea of finding the tangent line at a point was just "wow" for me. Another thing was finding the maximum of a function without even drawing the graph. Sure these things sound simple, but before taking calculus I didn't know this and most didn't.

After that credit, I rejected the offer of admission to the reputable Business School and went to a local university for Physics and Mathematics. I tacked on Physics because at the time I was reading a lot of Isaac Asimov books (non-fiction) and I found it interesting. I dropped Physics as a major later because I discovered that I hated doing applications and that the beauty of mathematics was just something you can't turn down.

So, that's my short/long story.

Note: The ironic part is that I failed my last mathematics course in high school (I didn't need it though) and now I'm a mathematics major. The other funny part is I studied calculus on my own without difficulty and very little background.
When I was a kid I had a flare for mathematics. In fact, my parents told me once that my second grade teacher said that I'm gonna become a mathematician (it haunts me how accurate this may be!). I'd always enjoyed mathematics more than anything else, and even though I wasn't an... exemplary student, I made it a golden rule to pay attention in math class. I even recall telling a friend: "this is math class, so we should stop messing around for now."

Unfortunately, as I got older I became less interested in school and developed lazy habits. This started around high school, and my grades were crap all the way through. Except I'd managed to cram before my GCSEs, so I did relatively well on them. I thought I could do the same for my A-levels and so basically never went to class and just hung out with my friends all the time.

Now this is where the real story begins. Near A-levels time, I decided to start looking at past mathematics exams, and found myself incapable of doing most of them. I freaked out and decided to teach myself the material. So I took out my textbooks and started reading through them page by page and then attempting the exercises. I was amazed by how interesting that stuff was. The power the ideas had blew me away... I could answer questions that I couldn't even begin contemplating previously. I was captured by the beauty that was mathematics. :smile:

Although I barely passed my exams, I decided to self-study more math over the summer. In the following year, I did an A-level in Further Mathematics and actually scored higher than anyone else in my country. Then I applied to do mathematics at university, something I would never have perceived myself doing!

And now I'm on my way to get a bachelor's in mathematics. I don't really know if I want to go the PhD route, so I'm also double majoring in computer science. However, I won't be the least bit surprised if in 10 years time I turned out to be a professional mathematician.

That's my boring story. :smile:
Last edited:
It was around the deadline for applying for universities. I was drunk, and on the way home, on the bus, I told my friend, "You know what, I wanna be a mathematician." And here I am, on my way to just that.

I wish I were kidding.
For me, it was pretty much a given from nearly the start that I was going into mathematics. I already memorized the multiplication table up to 12x12 by the time I was done with kindergarten. When I was about seven, I heard someone talking about triangle numbers - actually, he was talking about one particular number, demonstrating the interesting property it had of being the sum of consecutive numbers starting at 1. Soon I figured out the formula for triangle numbers. Initially it was two formulas, one for evens, and one for odds, until I realized they were the same formula.:rolleyes:

Around the same time, my older brother was selected to try out for a math competition, where elementary schools across the district had teams. The tryouts were after school, so I tagged along, getting the right answers before many of the older children. Two years later, I was old enough to try out myself. I cleaned up the competition, getting first place individual award for 4th grade.

Aside from the math competition, elementary school got pretty boring for me, and I already had very lazy habits. So the natural course of action was to start going to college. Only junior college, where you can only get an Associates Degree, but still, not many 11 year olds are taking college math courses. My lazy habits caught up with me, mathematically, when I took sadisti--erm--statistics (eventually I retook the class and got an A).

I got my Bachelor's degree in mathematics (and yes, physics, too), and now I'm aiming for a Master's degree and eventually a Ph.D. (in math, not physics)

When I first started this post, I didn't think there was any particular book that definitively pushed me toward mathematics, but actually, there was. I've lost the book :frown: and I don't remember the title. :cry: What I do remember is enjoying the section on ancient numeral systems (Roman, Egyptian, Mayan, Babylonian), the cartoons :biggrin: and the "Just for fun" questions at the end of each section. I think it was a '70s college textbook of sorts. And yeah, it was around second grade when I was reading it.
I was a kid, probably first or second grade, sitting on the throne in the bathroom. We had those cheap do-it-yourself tile squares on the floor, and having nothing better to do, I was playing games looking at the patterns, starting at one square and making bigger squares. I noticed that to make the next larger square you just had to add an odd number, and you could tell which odd number to use by taking the count of tiles from each side and adding the extra one in the corner! This just amazed me. I showed this remarkable relation to everyone I could, and someone told me about the use of "x" for generalizing, figured out that (x+1)^2 = x^2+2x+1 and all of a sudden I began to see everything in terms of algebra. Then throughout grade school I read everything I could about math and science (and was quite surprised to learn that Asimov wrote fiction). I do remember E.T. Bell's Men of Mathematics as a particularly pivotal book. In high school it was James von Newmen's four volume The World of Mathematics, still a treasured possession.

Granted, kids looked at me funny when they asked "What's your favorite number" and I said pi, but there are worse things to be teased about.


Science Advisor
My interest in math is its relevance to AI whose importance explains itself. If I had to point to a book I'd say Wolfram's "A New Kind of Science."


... to graduate school.
Homework Helper
Gold Member
Sounds like a lot of us mathematicians are lazy.

The Physics Forums Way

We Value Quality
• Topics based on mainstream science
• Proper English grammar and spelling
We Value Civility
• Positive and compassionate attitudes
• Patience while debating
We Value Productivity
• Disciplined to remain on-topic
• Recognition of own weaknesses
• Solo and co-op problem solving