Doubting My Math Skills, Going Into Engineering/Science

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In summary: Engineering school there. If you're interested in the Nanotech industry, then the University of Calgary would be a great place to go. However, keep in mind that you won't be studying Nanotech as an undergraduate.
  • #1
Caramon
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Hello,
I've generally never been a good math student my entire life and up until Grade 11 I was in Applied Math (rather than Pure, which is a step up in Alberta). In Grade 11 I switched into Pure Math 20 and studied extremely hard to end up with an 85%. I'm currently in Grade 12 and taking Pure Math 30 (95% after 4 units) at the same time as Advanced Placement Math 31 (Calculus) and I have 100% in Calculus after finishing 3 units (Limits & Continuity, Derivatives, etc.) I'm also a very logical and analytical thinker and it must seem like because I'm listing my marks here I really care about that... but, I am far more interested in the processes and mechanism behind everything and have a strong interest in Astronomy/Physics as well. I have 94% in Physics right now and I educate myself and study independently from what is being taught at school also! I also attend a hard High School (I normally spend 4 to 5 hours a night studying to obtain these grades) and the Alberta Government has regulated diploma exams at the end of each course worth 50% of the final grade so there is no mark inflation here.

Despite my seemingly good grades I still feel like I am not very good at Math and don't understand ANYTHING, I have absolutely no trouble understanding new and higher level concepts such as Calculus Theory but still spend a long time simplifying after I've done everything I need to do in 30 seconds to take the second derivative implicitly.

Do you have any ideas on what I could do the strengthen my basic math skills (seeing places to simplify or remove a "(27cosx)^2" in the middle of a page long question to find the answer?). I'm planning on going to UBC Okanagan next year in Kelowna, British Columbia to take 2 years of general engineering after which I intend to attend Arizona State University and take either "Planetary Science/Astrophysics" or "Astronautical Engineering" depending on if I like the more science or engineering side of things after taking 2 years of low-cost Canadian education (before I get owned by non-resident tuition).

tl;dr... I'm worried about advanced math in University and am unsure if I have a solid enough basis for going into Engineering/Science and being able to obtain good enough grades to eventually get into Grad School. Any ideas on how I can improve my math skills or do you think I might be fine?

Thanks!
 
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  • #2
Hey, I'm from Alberta also. It sounds like you're doing just fine! Algebra can be tedious, that's just life. Just keep doing practice questions and don't worry too much about your speed -- it's better to do a question right the first time.

I'm at the UofA for engineering right now. You should consider coming here. It's a really good school.

Does UBC have 2 years of general engineering? I know UofA first year is general, but year 2+ is discipline specific program.


But, on the real, don't worry about your basis. You'll find that first year calculus is really just a more in-depth "review" of Math 31.

Good luck man, and come to the UofA!
 
  • #3
I don't have my heart set in stone on where I want to go. I applied to University of Saskatchewan and UBC Okanagan (Yes there is an option to take the first two years general). I never really liked Edmonton whenever I went there with my family over the years... why would you recommend it as a school? I mean if it has a good program I would certainly consider it and it has low tuition and would be very close to home (I live in Calgary) so maybe it could be an option.

Thanks for the input!
 
  • #4
Why I would recommend engineering at the UofA

1) strong industry connections relating to the oil-sands

2) http://www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/eng/ibp/nint.html If you're interested in Nano-tech then you have a great opportunity for exploration in this area. However, keep in mind, that as an undergrad you're not going to be studying "nanotech", so to speak.

3) The engineering undergraduate programs within Canada are all very similar, because of regulation by the accreditation organizations, so really I don't think there is too much of a difference between the programs.

However, UBC Okanagan would probably be a cool campus.

Why not check out the University of Calgary? You'd be able to live at home and probably save at least a couple thousand dollars.
 
  • #5
I have lots of friends who have attended U of C for Engineering and hated it, they said there were bad professors, class sizes were absolutely humongous and not to mention that I do want to try not living at home!

The thing about Engineering in Alberta is that it is generally governed towards the Oil Sands and just about all co-op programs are oriented around oil companies, I have no desire to do Engineering for anything related to Petroleum Engineering.

The only Engineering I would really be interested in would be Systems Engineering (Space Mission Design) or Aerospace/Astronautical Engineering (Dealing with spacecraft ).
 
  • #7
Well, would it be a bad idea to head to the United States for 2 years to finish my degree? They have a lot more specialized programs that are of a higher quality than in Canada. If I was to do this I suppose it wouldn't matter where my first 2 years were and I could just stay at home, but at some point I really want to attend here: (http://sese.asu.edu/).
 
  • #8
Well, would it be a bad idea to head to the United States for 2 years to finish my degree?

I don't know if it would be a bad idea, but it's going to be about twice as expensive just for tuition ( http://students.asu.edu/costs/results?acad_year=2011&residency=NORES&acad_career=UGRD&admit_term=2107&admit_level=30&honors=0&campus=TEMPE&acad_prog=&online_prog=&housing_plan=ON ). Plus you're going to have to pay for food + accomidations + etc.

You also have to figure out just how many courses transfer to your new school -- not all courses/credits will 100% for sure transfer.

They have a lot more specialized programs that are of a higher quality than in Canada.

I don't think it's quite so cut and dry. For most of the mid-level school, the Canadian schools are around the same level of quality. Sure MIT and Harvard are crazy schools, but your average state school isn't like power level over 9000+ !1!

If I was to do this I suppose it wouldn't matter where my first 2 years were and I could just stay at home, but at some point I really want to attend here:

I'm wary of specialized undergrad programs myself. THat looks like a cool school though.
 
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  • #9
Caramon said:
Despite my seemingly good grades I still feel like I am not very good at Math and don't understand ANYTHING, I have absolutely no trouble understanding new and higher level concepts such as Calculus Theory but still spend a long time simplifying after I've done everything I need to do in 30 seconds to take the second derivative implicitly.

Calm down, and don't worry too much. Speed of computation is something that is pretty much useless in physics.

Do you have any ideas on what I could do the strengthen my basic math skills (seeing places to simplify or remove a "(27cosx)^2" in the middle of a page long question to find the answer?).

Practice helps, but once you understand the concepts, then being able to grind through the math isn't a very useful skill. If you have to grind through a big equation, you'll dump it into mathematica or maple, and have the computer do the tedious work.

I'm worried about advanced math in University and am unsure if I have a solid enough basis for going into Engineering/Science and being able to obtain good enough grades to eventually get into Grad School. Any ideas on how I can improve my math skills or do you think I might be fine?

Hard to say right now, but I wouldn't worry too much about it. Also, what I've seen keep people out of grad school isn't so much grades, but rather they end up burning out as an undergraduate. What's more important than being able to crunching equations is not to stress out when you are crunching equations.
 
  • #10
I suppose speed isn't really important after you are out of school but writing exams I seem to have to rush through to finish in time (Maybe this is because I'm taking AP).

It's hard to see myself a few years in the future but, I really doubt I will burn out. I've been interested in physics/related fields my entire life conceptually since I was very young and I've recently fell in love with the math of it all. I'm sure I will be able to endure a very hard workload, I have no trouble to sit down and study for hours.

Are specialized undergraduate programs a bad idea? I've heard many different opinions, some people say they are ideal if you know what you what to go into after graduating and others say that they close too many doors and don't leave your options open later in life. Any arguments for or against?

Also, regarding my last 2 years in the states, my parents are able to pay for $40,000 worth of education and I have $10,000 saved up from working every summer since I was 14. So that will significantly reduce how much of a student loan I will need to get.

Thanks again guys for all of the feedback, I really appreciate it.
 
  • #11
Caramon said:
Hello,
Despite my seemingly good grades I still feel like I am not very good at Math and don't understand ANYTHING

Don't worry, this is something that will work itself out as you get more and more practice.
 

Related to Doubting My Math Skills, Going Into Engineering/Science

1. How important is math in engineering and science?

Math is an essential component of engineering and science. It provides the foundation for understanding complex concepts and solving problems. Engineers and scientists use math to analyze data, create models, and design experiments. Without a strong understanding of math, it can be challenging to excel in these fields.

2. I struggle with math, can I still pursue a career in engineering or science?

Yes, you can still pursue a career in engineering or science even if you struggle with math. While a strong math background is beneficial, there are many resources available to help you improve your skills. Additionally, there are many different roles in engineering and science that may not require advanced math skills.

3. How can I improve my math skills for engineering and science?

One of the best ways to improve your math skills is to practice regularly. You can also seek out tutoring or join study groups to get additional support. It may also be helpful to break down complex math problems into smaller, more manageable parts. Additionally, using real-world examples and applications can make math more relatable and easier to understand.

4. I am interested in engineering/science, but I am not sure which field to pursue. How do I decide?

It's normal to feel unsure about which field of engineering or science to pursue. It can be helpful to research different areas and explore your interests. You can also talk to professionals in different fields to gain insight into their work and see which areas align with your skills and goals. Internships and job shadowing can also provide valuable experience and help you make a decision.

5. How can I overcome doubts about my math skills and pursue a career in engineering or science?

Doubts about math skills are common, especially when considering a career in engineering or science. It's essential to remember that everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and it's okay to ask for help. Surround yourself with a supportive network of peers and mentors who can encourage and guide you. Also, focus on your passion for the field and the impact you can make with your skills and knowledge.

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