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Greetings from a newcomer plus a few questions

  1. Dec 22, 2008 #1
    Hello everyone. I am ZComet and I hail from Malaysia. I am glad to come upon such a vibrant forum dedicated towards physics and mathematics. It's very nice to meet like-minded people such as yourselves around here. I am not a mathematician (yet), but I plan to take pure mathematics as my second undergraduate degree in due time. Though my current skills as of yet are high-school level I would try my best to contribute to this wonderful forum.

    The reason I came here though is to ask for your opinion on my motivation for pursuing mathematics in its purest form. The thing is, every time I talk to people about my obesssion with mathematics and why I want to pursue maths as a career, they always say things about how wonderful it is to be able to use maths to make better decisions in business, using maths to make truckloads of money in actuaries or fiancial analysis, using maths to keep accounts, using maths to cook rice, etc, etc.

    Everyone I talked to (in my country, at least) seemed to percieve maths as nothing more than a convinient secondary skill for the intent of making money or complementing the primary skill of some other career. But applied maths is not my passion at all. I am not interested in knowing how much money I can make out of algebra or to what extent can it be implemented in industrial practice, for instance. What I am passionate about instead is to what extent the knowledge of algebra goes currently, and how can I contribute to expanding the knowledge in that area. You see, my true passion lies in pure mathematics. I want to study maths for its own sake with little regard to application. I want to tackle maths as a true discipline on its own.

    I consider mathematics as a sport or art on par with basketball or painting. I am passionate to seeing the beauty of how do elite mathematicians solve problems or prove statements using the shortest, neatest solutions possible. I feel delight in uncovering alternative routes in equations that may provide a solution in lesser steps than conventionally expected. I want to see how they write their steps down, how beautiful do they prioritize the parts of the problem to solve first, and how by doing so eliminates the remaining steps needed to reach the goal. In addition I want to delve deep into the techniques to calculate better, such as reducing mental invocation of numbers into single syllables (example "seven" as "se") to shorten calculation, or mental exercises to increase the ability to imagine in three dimensional spaces, and so on. (by the way, this is exactly the reason why people ridiculed my obession with maths).

    For the same reason, I wanted to do pure maths as my second undergraduate degree simply because it gives me the opportunity to take part in math olympiads or other similar competitions. As I said I view maths as a sport. I would like to pit my skills against other people - whom had likely to receive full emotional and educational support from their family and teachers, while I was strongly discouraged by everyone and gained my genius in maths mostly from self-study. I felt that despite my unfortunate background I still might be able to win those competitions. Winning or at least arriving to the finals would be something I would be very proud of.

    I was extremely unfortunate that during my high school years I was not given the chance to participate in maths competitions despite my oustanding talent as my parents and my teachers in my country at that time are all doctor-minded people. They forced me to keep a mindset to the MD and focus on my studies. I am to forget the math competitons as it is a waste of time. I had no idea how at those teenage years I got fooled into obeying my parents, and now I am about to graduate with poor grades from my first undegraduate degree in biotechnology due to lack of passion. I learned the hard way though, that maths is my one and only ambition that cannot be replaced by one another.

    Most likely I will face a lot of opposition when I do my second degree. People will say I am "still not giving up my childish dreams", that I should be better off making money as a cubicle slave instead of dedicating my life into cerebral pursuits, but to hell with them. This is MY LIFE - not THEIRS. If they so boldly fight for the right to be themselves, than I too want the right to be myself. I am a person with potential to be a mathematician and thats who I am and thats who I watnt to be.

    So uh...what is your say on me? Am I being...immature like what everyone else say about me? It's really nothing wrong with being myself, right? And uh please excuse me if my English sounds so bookish. English is not my first language.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 22, 2008 #2


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    Hi ZComet! This is a great place - I think you will really enjoy it.

    You should certainly persue your passion! It's your life, not your family's or friends'.

    Welcome to PF!
  4. Dec 22, 2008 #3
    Welcome to PF Zcomet.

    You should certainly work to achieve what you wish in life. So few people do. If you are able to continue your education and go for this second degree then, by all means, you should. With your choice of subject I am thinking you will likely need to look toward becoming a professor yourself eventually.

    This sounds like it would involve cognitive science to some degree. Your degree in biotech may help you out with this.
  5. Dec 22, 2008 #4
    I wish I was obsessed with math >.< In math, a theorem is either proven or unproven, and your relationship with the professor is very clear - you do your own thing, the prof does his/her own, helps you out sometimes, etc. People respect you based on how smart you are. All things are crystal clear, the mathematical world does not conflict with your understanding of real life. Whereas in Physics, it's like WTFX%&@# everywhere.
  6. Dec 22, 2008 #5


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    There's nothing wrong in loving math for math's sake!

    If you are interested in speed calculation, you might delve into the Trachtenberg system.
  7. Dec 22, 2008 #6


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    Sounds like you know what you want, so go for it.
    I can understand a little about how others are affecting you. I have a lady friend there in Malaysia who had to suffer a lot just from being Indian. But she has never let them hold her down.
    Your english is fine. Besides, we have members from all over the world and we try our best to communicate.

    Welcome to PF ZComet
  8. Dec 24, 2008 #7
    That's what most people use in order to turn me off from pursuing my dream, as if teaching people is a bad thing - something that is 'unglamorous' or 'uncool' as compared to being a cubicle slave. I personally do not mind becoming a professor in mathematics. In fact it is actually the first ambition I ever had when I was a child. My greatest joy in life is always learning and sharing my knowledge with others. To me the pursuit of knowledge is a wonderful thing that is worth dedicating my life for.

    Though, I am concerned about being burdened by paperwork marking student papers working as a professor. Hopefully I won't be working in a University with an outrageous teacher-to-student ratio, that I had to stay up till late night just to mark quizzes. Getting overworked is certainly NOT what I am looking for, regardless of my interest.

    But hey, there's always alternatives to teaching just in case. I could always sell books instead, or monetizing webpages dedicated to mathematics, just like what the owner of this forum is doing right now (I bet he is filthy rich at the moment!!). Maybe out of all my experience with olympiads I could become a coach for future participants. There's always opportunities as long as I look hard enough.

    I doubt it. My biotech degree deals heavily with microbiology and molecular cell biology practices. Nothing about developing mathematical skills. But still, you are right that there might be something I have learned (directly or not) that may be useful out of my first degree.

    Well I had little problems with studying physics during my high school /pre-university years since it is closely related to mathematics. I am pretty sure the difficulty with learning physics is due to the incorrect teaching methods at your university? Opps, sorry I am not in your university so I should not be assuming too much.

    The Trachtenberg system is the first book I have read and I have enjoyed it. But I admit, it takes effort to unlearn our conventional way to do maths in order to apply the methods in the book by instinct. I am more interested in shortening the mental recitation of numbers to single syllables - and eventually not reciting them at all - to speed up calculation. Besides, once I have mastered that I can apply it to the Trachtenberg method to imake it even more effective.

    And I thought I was the very unfortunate one. Though I am suprised, it seems that this problem is the same regardless of races in my country (I am Malay).

    Anyway thanks everyone. It's really nice to have people agreeing with what I believe in for once.
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2008
  9. Dec 24, 2008 #8


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    Welcome to PF ZComet! You should go for your pure math degree if that is what you want to do. Its easy for other to criticize if it is not their decision or their passion.

    Ignore them and focus on the one opinion that does matter, your own.
  10. Dec 24, 2008 #9
    Personally I think teaching is one of the most important jobs in the world. Unfortunately in many modern societies teachers are not as well recognized as they ought to be.

    One of my best friends is a grad student at UCI here in California. He mostly works as a teachers assistant at the University for his living expenses and his primary job is to grade papers for the professor. He even gives lectures for some of them.

    The site owner is probably about your age. He started the site as a project for school and as far as I know only makes enough money to keep the site running through the ads and donations (Those of us with yellow/gold screen names are Gold Members/donors). Websites, especially ones as big as this, can take alot of money to keep up.

    Coming up with methods for people to calculate in their heads more efficiently and visualize multidimensional space will likely require a bit of knowledge on how the mind works. Cognitive science involves psychology and biology, and a bit of chemistry aswell. I'm not sure about prerequisites for the courses but you might be able to pick up a cognitive science class for liberal arts credits. I've not taken any classes but the papers I have read are rather interesting if sometimes a bit nutty.
    Educational psychology might be a bit more up your alley on the path to becoming a professor and with a desire to impart knowledge. It seems (now that I am looking for proper terminology) that there is even a field of Numerical Cognition.
  11. Dec 24, 2008 #10


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    Please be aware that there is little similarity between methods of arithmetic and a degree in Pure Math. Arithmetic is a very small part of math, in fact you will find that many very good mathematicians sux at arithmetic.
  12. Dec 24, 2008 #11

    Wow you seem very driven, it'll take you far.
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