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Extremely discouraged by this one guy

  1. Oct 30, 2005 #1
    there is this one guy in my Multivariable Calculus course, he knows everything.
    and it is very discouraging. when he doesnt come to class, i really get the lecture.
    * granted, i am not working anywhere near as hard as i should be working, but it is now becoming a distraction whenever he comes to class. he just knows like everything.
    i looked up on my school's mathematics home page. we offer a problem of the month, i looked at the problem, i didnt even have a clue how to begin. not a damn clue. 8 solutions were submitted and his was deemd the best, i looked at it, it looked like a paper off arxiv.
    btw, hes a freshman!!!!!!!!
    its just very discouraging to see someone understand everything so easily.
    however, i do know he is from eastern europe and a lot of my friends from that area say on the average, students in eastern europe know so much more than the average american high school student.
    blah, i guess this was just my way to vent.
    **EDIT: then again, i havent been working at all, i havent read the last 4 sections of the textbook. im just knowing enough to do well on exams...
    im gunna try giving it my all, and hopefully i wont have to worry about comparing myself to other people
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 30, 2005 #2
    Do not get discouraged since you may not be putting in as much work as he does. Also remember you can always learn anything in books. May take you longer or shorter than other people but in the end you both know how to solve the problem.
  4. Oct 30, 2005 #3
    yeah it doesn't matter because the point is...he must have had done more work than you and you can beat him by trying doing more things in your time....
    Hom much you learn ,there will always be peoples who know more than you..Try to make use of them,understand them..that's it.
  5. Oct 30, 2005 #4
    My philosophy is learning is not a competition against others, but with myself. There will always be someone who's better than you in one area or another, and you should appreciate that and learn from them. I went to high school with a presidential scholar and other extremely bright people. I was a bit intimidated in high school and didn't focus on my own studies. I learned not to do that in college and just concentrate on what I'm capable of.

    Ultimately, you'll have to compete with others in job market or grad school. But I still think it's a good idea to not fret so much about that. Afterall, if you do the best you can, there's not much to complain about.
  6. Oct 31, 2005 #5
    I feel your pain JasonJo... I have similar issues but not particularly with anyone in my class. People always say learning math is not a race but it's extremely discouraging to know that there kids out there that take calculus 2 in high school (I only know of only one but I'm sure there are more), while I'm taking it in my second year of college! I look at some of the schedules students over at Caltech take and it just drives me crazy. Unlike you though I read all the sections thoroughly and study ALL THE TIME, every single day, and hang out around here to be around other math people but it's just not enough. Sure it's not a race I guess but it's kind of embarrassing sometimes. But I like to look on the bright side every once in a while. Merely taking a class over calculus makes you better than SOOOO many people at math that it's ridiculous. Go up to anyone on the street and ask anyone what 1/0 is and chances are high they'll say 0. My math teacher constantly makes fun of the people who come in the tutoring center and ask why 4/7+5/6 doesn't equal 9/13 and so on (yeah he's kind of a mean guy heh). But whatever.

    If any European guy over here could elaborate on this that'd be nice. I don't know, I know a lot of people from Europe through other forums and they're no math geniuses. I know in China and Japan they make their kids work like crazy but I don't know about Europe.
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2005
  7. Oct 31, 2005 #6


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    In response to what samh and others said and what know of 'Eastern European' education (naturally the accuracy of this statement is somewhat questionable, but in general could say applies) - they tend to get a bit more 'heavily involved' in math earlier on, and as such tend to go 'deeper' as well earlier on (usually "theoretical" aspects of sciences, think pretty much irrespective of the field, are in somewhat higher regard over there). What this means in practice is that the fella has likely already put in far more hours than you've, so it's just a matter of you getting as much studying under your belt.
  8. Oct 31, 2005 #7


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    You may also want to take into account the fact that he may have self-studied... Who really knows! In my chemistry class, i could damn well near sleep through every lecture and never study for a test (and i pretty much do) and i get top scores in the class. Why? Physics major, already went through basic modern physics! So its all a breeze for me. Thats alway ssomething to consider... they may not be understanding things faster... they may just already know how to do it.
  9. Oct 31, 2005 #8
    This has happened to me, also. There was also one guy who was so much ahead everybody else he aced every class in the first 3 years. The thing is - he's high school* had much more math classes than mine (it think he said he had like 7 or 8 math classes every week and I had 4. This helped him very much and I had to do alot more study on my own. But, further I go, differences between him and the rest of us became much smaller. I even got better grades than him in some of my final-year classes, so dont give up - your time will come :smile: .

    Btw, I'm from Eastern Europe. I would never say that I am smarter than anyone (wheter he is from US or anywhere else), but if you want I could write what we learned in math classes in high school and university.

    * we have 4 years high school, then another 4+ years at university (Why + ? In my university average time to get a diploma degree (I think equiv to BSc) is 7.5 years :frown:, but in recent years it has decreased a little, because some classes have changed substantialy)
  10. Oct 31, 2005 #9
    If I were you JasonJo, I would learn from this guy. Hang out around him for a while, find out how he learns, his strategy, etc....

    Take him as your new competition. Strive to excel beyond him in your Multivariable Calculus class.

    Btw, I also take Multivariable Calculus at a local college during evenings after high school (hey, I'm still a HS senior! I'm 17)....and I'd probably fit the description of that guy. I don't really do much of the work anyway, and I still get A's on tests (~92%+).

    Personally, I think my calculus class is moving a little too slowly. Only if I don't understand something right away will I write it in my notebook (to further practice it a little).

    **And one other thing: Ok...I'm the only high school student in that class, the rest are adults. You know, I really expected a mature learning attitude from them. What I keep hearing is the same old "GIve us a 1/2 point more!! Your tests are unfair! We did all that work!!"---->BAHH! The same old high school crap seems to follow us into college. :devil:
    For example, I also have people in my class blaming my instructor for putting limit questions on the test requiring L'Hopital's Rule. What I say: People! C'mon-->this is CalcIII, not CalcI. It's your fault for forgetting how to use it! It's your fault for forgetting to evaluate mixed partials when the test question specifically asks, "Find all the first and second partial derivatives of f(x,y)." :rolleyes:


    However...when I took 1st semester Organic Chemistry, that was the first class I actually had to spend many hours to study for :biggrin: and do a large amount of work in order to be skillful and problem-solve mechanisms rapidly! However, I enjoyed it! :smile: And it was refreshing! (b/c I do enjoy chemistry)! Also a huge amount of memorization. 90% of my time I spent for the class--was spent studying/memorizing those mechanisms. And don't even mention that IR spectrum analysis--->yes, the OH group was easy to detect... but other groups seemed to be a bit more trouble! Therefore, I practiced and practiced. And I only got a B. (I always aim for A's, nothing less. But Organic Chemistry--->I had to work hard at it--->and therefore it really does intrigue me!!) OK....and so does Mathematics, physics, philosophy, certain forms engineering, economics, politics, education...etc. I have too many interests for my own good.

    But aside from Organic Chemistry...we're talking about math.

    One thing which I never really understood was why would people need to "study" for math. I mean, it isn't chemistry! Or computer science. Why would people need to "study" math? What/why the **** would you have to "study" something like math??????

    I mean, all it is (at least for me):

    1) look into the chapter/section
    2) understand the concept
    3) take the test, get an A.

    Then again, some people want to do some "homework problems." But why??? I mean, unless:

    a) the material is hard
    b) you don't feel very confident
    c) you are slow at certain types of problems
    (not really an issue...unless you have a difficult time finishing tests :rolleyes:)

    .....otherwise, there's not much reason to do that math homework
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2005
  11. Oct 31, 2005 #10
    compete with yourself and not other people. If he's not too stuck-up, then learn from him or something, but if he is stuck-up, then screw him. don't worry, as long as you're not doing too badly, and you feel that you're learning something from the course, don't give up !

    : )
  12. Oct 31, 2005 #11

    I hate you:smile: JK.

    Sounds like an x-girlfriend of mine, she never studied for math or physics at all, got all A's.

    I know what you mean about organic chem, what a beast of a class. The first test in my class, the high score was 57%.

    When it comes to grades, the only thing I ever care about is the class average. As long as I know I'm putting in the work trying to learn the material, as long as my scores are coming out somewhere between the class average and the top score, I'm happy. That's the attitude that got me through calc II, how can you be upset with yourself if you put 10 to 15 hours per week into a class, get 76% on a test, and then find out that only 6 people out of 38 did better then you?
  13. Oct 31, 2005 #12
    There is your first problem. Quit seeing it as a negative. Don't let it get to you. You are only hurting yourself.
    Then again... that might just be the problem.:smile:
    Coming from an American high school student, don't stereotype me!:rofl:
  14. Oct 31, 2005 #13
    Everyone's different. I'm the exact opposite of you; if I have any hope of doing well on the math tests, I have to practice the problems and, in turn, do my homework (even though I usually "get it" right off the bat, I have to practice it to get comfortable with it). On the other hand, in more memory-based subjects, I only have to examine the material once or twice and I never forget it.
  15. Oct 31, 2005 #14


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    the chances are you're just plain stupid:biggrin:

    he's a freshman and he's taking a calc III course, perhpas he's one of those high iq geniuses, age 12 perhaps?

    if not, he's just probably showing off, getting attention, and you're naieve enough to be concerned. Either he's genuinely interested in the subject and decently smart enough and genuine to engage himself in the discussion or he's socially inadequate (he's european afterall, superiority to the american's heh?).

    why on earth is he in your class, is this some sort of advanced higher level course? If he needs the attention let him have it, you're no dumber than he is I'm sure; he's earnest or he's simply smart, if he's simply a genius than he would not be in your class, thus he simply has a better education than you did and has a superiority complex.
  16. Oct 31, 2005 #15
    A lot of people take Calc III their freshman year. (I did.) It's simply a matter of taking the AP BC Calc test.
  17. Oct 31, 2005 #16
    College shouldn't be a competition, people are supposed to try their best, and those that excel in their fields get rewarded for that, and not rewarded for being smarter or doing better than someone else. That being said, this is not usually the situation in many people's minds, and in some cases not even encouraged or mentioned by the college atmosphere, it's a shame. I suggest you focus on your own study, if you believe you can do better, then do so. If you wish to put just enough effort in a class then you can't complain about someone doing better than you. There are some people that are better suited because of their genes to comprehend math and/or science, but in my opinion there are no people that are built not to comprehend something. So, no matter how smart a person is, he and you have the same potential to learn something it just may be easier for him, or not, you never know he could be studying his a$$ off.
  18. Oct 31, 2005 #17


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    There will always be somebody smarter, more hardworking, better looking or more skilful with the ladies. That's a given in life. Get used to it, maybe take it as a challenge to improve yourself to the best of your ability.

    I do want to echo the sentiments of the guy who asked what was the need to study Math (or Physics). I agree, those are two subjects I breezed through in school while happily skipping lectures and avoiding any real studying. I needed the extra time freed to force myself to study Biology (which I hated at the time) which was a complete slogging subject. Ironically, I ended up doing Medicine, lol.
  19. Nov 1, 2005 #18
    I could have taken Calc III (or it's IV in my school) my freshman year, but was advised to take a quarter off from math. Didn't do much either way. I'll take all the math my school has to offer by spring and transfer over to a university next year.

    Anyway, your friends are right. In pretty much every other country in the world, the public education system is on a higher level than in the US. It's not that they are smarter, they are just forced to work harder. So don't worry about it. Work just as hard as him, and you'll get there.

  20. Nov 1, 2005 #19


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    Get used to it being a competition, because it is. You will compete with people for position and power throughout your career. That's how the real world works. Ever had a job interview?
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2005
  21. Nov 1, 2005 #20


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    I think you have a very unproductive and negative attitude. try to be glad for a person who does well. try to enjoy your work instead of thinking of it as a trial of some kind.

    there is a bit of sickness in being sad and threatened by successful and contented people and their success. Would you be happier if everyone in your class were a moron and you looked brighter by comparison?

    with this attitude you will be in danger of always looking for an environment where people are weak and unmotivated so you will shine in comparison.

    To be your best, it is more useful to do the opposite and look for places and people who will challenge you to the maximum.
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