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Changing to Math Major in Senior Year? Crazy?

  1. May 8, 2010 #1
    Currently, I'm a junior Biology/Studio Art major who became disillusioned by the allied health field very early on and then the biological research field very recently. I have been looking for something else to do with my life, but every subject (psychology, English, chemistry, biology, history, anthropology...I've taken them all and hated them). Also, this isn't a matter of not liking a subject because I suck at it, I have a ~3.8 GPA.

    Anyway, I just finished taking Calculus 2, and it was the first class I've ever taken that demanded some sort of problem-solving skills instead of ragingly boring rote memorization.

    Because of this, now I spend all of my time thinking about and reading about upper math beyond Calculus, like Real Analysis. I want to keep pursuing math and make it into a career; this is the first subject that I've learned where I didn't have to force myself to study.

    In fact, I would want to go on to graduate school for it, so my grades are important in these classes. However, being a junior, I don't know if this is feasible.

    Is it possible to learn anything/pass/ace all of these classes within a year and a half?

    Here's a break-down of what courses I would need to take:
    Summer '10
    Real Analysis => Linear Algebra => Calculus 3.
    I would take Real Analysis during the first session, Linear Algebra during the 2nd and 3rd, and then Calculus 3 during the 3rd (so Linear Algebra and Calculus 3 overlap for some point).

    Fall '10
    Real Analysis 2
    Linear Algebra 2
    Differential Equations
    Abstract Algebra

    Spring '11
    Complex Variables with Applications
    Introduction to Computer Science
    Abstract Algebra

    Uhh...Yeah. Any advice/admonishments would be greatly appreciated!
  2. jcsd
  3. May 8, 2010 #2
    That is possible in a year and a half. Except for calculus III, I covered those classes and more in a year and a half.

    The most important thing is to make sure you won't get burnt out of mathematics. Taking four rather serious mathematics course simultaneously, as you plan to do in the Fall 2010 semester, is strenuous and demanding, but it can be done without too much difficulty as long as you maintain a high level of interest.

    The bottom line is that it's possible provided you are able to maintain a nearly constant and unmitigated interest in the subject.
  4. May 8, 2010 #3
    Thank you for your helpful advice! It's reassuring to hear that someone has done this before and lived...If you don't mind sharing, what kind of marks did you earn in these classes?
  5. May 8, 2010 #4


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    That looks like the schedule of any second year/honors first year mathamatics student. The trouble is you won't have time for other mathematics courses.
  6. May 8, 2010 #5

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    A few bits of advice:

    First, you should be seeking the advice of your school's math department, not just some guys on the internet. They can give you specific advice that we can't, like "for heaven's sake, don't take X and Y at the same time - you'll never keep up with the work."

    Second, I am a little concerned about the pace: you are laying the foundations down in summer and then need to have it down cold by fall. In a normal sequence, if you didn't quite catch everything in the intro classes (a situation that happens to everyone), you'd have 1 or 2 classes where this will cause you difficulties. You might fall a little behind while you catch up, but since it's only a class or two, it's not impossible to recover.

    In your plan, you have 4 classes at once, and if you fall behind just a little, it will be much more difficult to recover. Worse, since most schools teach summer sessions at a faster pace (to get through the same material in fewer weeks), the odds of not quite getting everything are higher.

    Third, I don't think this curriculum will adequately prepare you for graduate school. I don't know what "real analysis" is, but since you don't need DiffyQ or complex variables to take it, it can't be the deep and difficult class that most of us think of when we see that title. This curriculum has no discrete math, no geometry or topology, no probability or statistics, no number theory, etc. While most entering graduate students haven't had everything on that list either, they will have had many of them.

    It's possible that this is worked in with other classes, which is another reason to talk to the math department at your school.
  7. May 9, 2010 #6

    I am currently a Mathematics Major. I read your post and was thinking...unless you have some sort of absolute deadline that can't be exceeded, why not switch your major and fulfill the credits taking a normal work load each semester? Sure, you'll graduate a little later than you had initially expected. When it comes to your education, why try to speed through it and risk potentially minimizing the grasp of the concepts? Also, while taking the standard curriculum, I find myself having the time to do a lot of independent mathematical inquiry and study. This approach, I feel, is giving me a much more well rounded mathematical knowledge base.

  8. Nov 20, 2010 #7
    It can be done. I am in your EXACT situation.

    However your class load looks a bit light. Math majors at my school (Applied Math anyhow) have to take 15 upper division classes, 13 of them math (quarter system). Are you not going to take Numerical Analysis, Partial Differential Equations and Stochastic Processes?

    I actually was contemplating transfering to math myself but IMO you should at least pass differential equations before making a decision.
  9. Nov 20, 2010 #8
    I can definitely relate to you; I came to school with the intention of pursuing medicine, but after taking a few math courses, I realized that this is exactly what I want to do. While I discovered this for myself a bit earlier in my college career, I started college a bit late, so I'm behind already in that regard.
    Anyways, I would certainly recommend speaking with someone in your math department. I don't think that the course load you indicated is unfeasible, by any means. In fact, it's very similar to my plan for this year, and, so far at least, I'm not having problems. However, I don't know which university you attend--I myself attend UCLA, and I'm not entirely convinced that the undergraduate math courses here are necessarily as strenuous as those at other institutions.
    One thing you may consider is entering a program to obtain your master's degree, before applying to school for your PhD, if that is in fact your ultimate objective. I have a TA right now who, similar to yourself, did not take his first calculus course until his junior year. I presume he had high marks in other subjects, completed as much math coursework as he could, and applied for a master's degree at NYU. He then transferred to UCLA. Granted, this will take a little more time, but I think that ultimately, you will have more options if you take a similar route. I hope this was helpful.
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