1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

How do I know that I really want to study Math?

  1. Aug 14, 2012 #1
    How do I know that I really want to study Math???

    Hello guys, I have a little problem. I am currently a chemical engineering major. However, I am constantly thinking about switching to Mathematics. I do love chemistry, but the higher level Mathematics just really interests me. How do I know this is not just some heat of the moment thing? For you guys, how did you know that Math is the major you want to devote your University life to? Please help me out.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 14, 2012 #2
    Re: How do I know that I really want to study Math???

    if you are already familiar with proofs, try taking some upper division math classes. if you are not, there should be a mathematical reasoning class which teaches proof writing. if you can't fit those into your schedule, then try picking up some math textbooks and work through them.

    sometimes you don't really know whether you like/dislike something until you get deep enough into it. if you take an upper division math class and really like it, then take some more before you decide to switch majors.
  4. Aug 14, 2012 #3
    Re: How do I know that I really want to study Math???

    I was in the exact same boat (except it was Mechanical for me) and I pulled the trigger (except I'm hedging my bets a little by taking Pure and Applied with a specialization in Stats and Actuarial Sciences). Put simply: engineering wasn't for me--the overall lack of rigour was disheartening IMO; I know many say "read up on all the stuff that interests you on your own time" but I just can't do it with all the Engr requirements (I do have a 3.9 GPA in Engr).

    Either way, follow your heart--don't let anyone tell you that Engineering is necessarily more marketable than Math--it simply is NOT. There are many possibilities with a Math degree, including (but not limited to): statistician, actuary, applied mathematician (it's a job--my favourite math teacher is one for Rolls Royce), math teacher and researcher/plain-old-mathematician.

    Basically--do what feels right.
  5. Aug 15, 2012 #4
    Re: How do I know that I really want to study Math???

    You have to decide what you would do with the math background. If you go to math grad school, it's primarily aimed at training math professors. That means you have to think about teaching. I thought teaching would be cool, but I was wrong. Teaching math at lower levels seems to me to be a purely social or psychological endeavor, rather than a mathematical one. I thought teaching math would be just explaining ideas, but that may only be true at a higher level. So, you need to get interested in helping people learn very obvious and basic things all the time. I think of it as a puzzle of trying to get across to profoundly non-mathematical students. It's kind of like signing up to coach Olympic athletes, and then, you realize once you are on the job that you are coaching the special Olympics, which is very nice, but not what you signed up for. This may sound derogatory, but I am just trying to convey the point that it might not be what you expect. You might try reading one of the books by John Mighton, the founder of the JUMP math program to spark your interest in teaching and helping the mathematically disabled recover from their disabilities.

    You could very well find yourself interested in math for several more years, but it might not last longer than that. A lot of people figure it out in grad school. People like me who, at the end of their undergrad, thought it was a no-brainer to be a mathematician, only to have the wind knocked out of their sails completely in grad school. Research can be very unpleasant. You might find out that someone already proved your theorem 10 years ago, or you might find that you make a subtle mistake and have to throw away 20 pages of your thesis that you worked so hard to write. You may or may not do well under the pressure to publish. And you may wonder why you are working so hard on something with only a very hypothetical use to society. Math may turn out to be bigger than you think. It's easy to say you know it's big, but you don't really get a feel for what it's really like to have to deal with such a huge volume of information until you actually do it (or, more accurately, when you fail to do it--even within a what would seem at first glance to be fairly narrow field). Research is riddled with these sorts of dangers.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook