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Getting into Maths, skipping sequences

  1. Nov 27, 2013 #1
    Hello all,

    Well, it's my first post here but I'm not unfamiliar to the forum having read different posts and been intrigued by maths for a while.

    I finally decided that, after looking at different career options while buying Spivak's Calculus and playing with numbers, I should go into math. There seems to be a gap in the road ahead from happy-go-lucky learning about maths and actually showing a school I learned them. It would seem, withholding placement tests, you have to pay the school their dues to prove you know the subject.

    I'm looking for a way around that. I'm graduating with an unrelated major in Dec, and I'm pretty stuck on how to get into maths at the school level. With sequences, I'll have to take Trigonometry, Calc I and then Calc II all over the course of a year. Unfortunately, I'll have to find work in a field related to my major, and be putting in countless hours in the opposite direction, building a resume I won't have any use for, not to mention a lifestyle I don't want to live. Assuming I follow this plan, it would end up taking 2 years to complete all the major coursework, plus an additional year to apply ( I don't think I can apply to a school with knowledge up to Linear Algebra and get accepted).

    Here's the only way I think I can get around this, please give me feedback as to it's feasibility, because I will be putting a lot of time into it before I can know the outcome:

    Teach myself the courses up to a reasonable level ( 6- 8 courses, starting with Calc II) over the course of Dec to July.
    Apply to either graduate level courses, or high level undergraduate courses in mathematics
    Ace these courses
    Apply to a low-tier Master's program in Math, state that I was self-taught and the fact that I passed advanced level mathematics courses supports this. The courses will be part of the curriculum, and if I passed those I should be able to handle the courses.
    Take a couple high-level undergraduate courses once I (if I) gain entrance to the Masters program, to solidify my knowledge.
    Use this credibility to either get a job or continue on in mathematics.

    Thanks guys, I value constructive criticism.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 27, 2013 #2


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    Hey xaoqweklui and welcome to the forums.

    It is possible to do this and I know of one particular case which is Arie Israel who didn't do his bachelors. He got into Princeton University for a PhD program. I'd take a look at what was required for him to get to a waiver for undergraduate studies.


    You may be able to contact him to get some information on what is expected from candidates that get accepted.
  4. Nov 27, 2013 #3
    Thanks, I had heard about him from doing a little searching, maybe he would be interested in giving me advice. I just feel there's a disparity between the number of people learning math for fun, and the people going to school after learning it, and I'm hoping there's more cases ( one person without a degree got in, I wonder how many unrelated-major's got in).

    Alternatively, it'd be interesting if anyone knows how well self-taught math fairs on a resume. It seems off but people put self-taught programming languages on resume's all the time. Surely more people have experience of the human resources department hiring procedures than have got in to grad school with a special circumstance.

    Either one would be extremely informative. I just want to learn math, doing something related for pay allows this to happen.
  5. Nov 27, 2013 #4


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    Arie Israel was home schooled, had completed high school calculus by age 13, and was dual-enrolled at Florida Atlantic University university at age 14. FUA wanted him to take a first degree in math, but he wasn't interested in doing the required gen ed courses. He was recommended to Princeton by the staff at FUA.

    That's a nice story, but I don't see the relevance to the OP's situation.


    Bluntly, it doesn't count for anything more than claiming to be a self-taught brain surgeon.
  6. Nov 28, 2013 #5


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    So then the question is, given that the self-taught math is truly understood, what's the cheapest, simplest, fastest way to prove it in a way that's acceptable to a graduate admissions committee?

    Is that about right?

    I don't know the answer, but I'm very curious to hear what people know. My best guess is that applying to a taught masters program at a low-rated university should have the lowest bar to entry. Then getting that masters can be parlayed into a decent Ph.D. program if you did well.
  7. Nov 28, 2013 #6


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    Mathematics is not as hard as brain surgery (at least at the undergraduate level) ;).
  8. Nov 29, 2013 #7
    Yes that's exactly it! It seems there are many online programs to gain knowledge (MIT open courseware, Kahn Academy) but how long before people who are self-taught gain recognition? It seems we're moving that direction again.

    And I agree with your idea, that's the best I could come up with as well. I will be applying to a low level graduate school and seeing if I can get accepted there, then using that for either credibility on the job or try and pursue a PhD at a better school.

    Does anyone have any more information on this? I'm following through with the idea but it'll be a few years journey, so I'll continually be checking back and trying to gain more info.
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