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How does one get better at math/science? Is it even possible?

  1. Mar 17, 2005 #1
    yeah sounds like a stupid question, but I'm at a very important time in my life right now and very depressed. :(

    All I know is to solve problems and read. The more problems you solve the better you get at something.

    But is that enough? What if I'm stupid? Can one get 'smarter'? :(

    Right now one of the courses i'm taking is being taught by a professor that happens to be non other than the anti-christ. I'm serious. So this course, electricity and magnetisim which happens to be the most important one for an electrical engineer, will be studied by myeslf using other texts and scrutinizing solutions manuals. *weep*

    I just got a big hit in math too. I thought I was good but the test was a shock.

    I want to get better. I want to learn. Science/mathematics are beautiful when understood. I know that from what I already learned but it's not enough.

    I'm not sure what's the point of this thread but any thoughts are welcome.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 17, 2005 #2
    Since you referred to your teacher as the "anti-christ", I'm unable to render any helpful advice.
  4. Mar 17, 2005 #3
    I'm an atheist actually. Does that help? :rolleyes:
  5. Mar 17, 2005 #4
    Nope, makes it worse.
  6. Mar 17, 2005 #5
    If your goal is to gain a good understanding of physics and math, then I think patience and some degree of repetition will eventually get you there. Experience does help because many areas of physics and math are interconnected. Some principles, like symmetry, are universal. I feel that I've gotten "smarter" as I've gotten older.

    If your goal is to be a theorist who works on the cutting edge, then lacking natural talent will definitely be a problem.
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2005
  7. Mar 17, 2005 #6
    Another thing I'd like to add is this:

    At least from my experience, I didn't really learn physics and math all that well as an undergrad. Yes, I got good grades in these classes, in general, but it was somewhat of a superficial understanding. Part of the problem is that you're so busy with different classes and other activities that you don't really have time to learn the material as well as you'd like. For me - the situation was rather that I learned just enough to solve the homework problems and do well on the exams.

    So - it often takes at least another pass (or two or three) through the material to learn it. This tends to happen later on, in grad school.

    And the really best way to learn the material well is to teach it to others (and/or really use it in your research). That's kind of why I've been coming to this site. I haven't had a chance to answer many questions due to limited time, but it is something I'd like to do more of, in order to better my own understanding of physics and math.
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2005
  8. Mar 17, 2005 #7
    Thanks for the reply Juvenal.

    What the hell is your problem? Been talking to god too much lately?
  9. Mar 17, 2005 #8
    Just take things one at a time. I too have a tendency to get frustrated in my calculus class because I sometimes have a difficult time understanding how to work the problems. Also, i'm not the fastest at doing mathematics either, rather taking it slow so as to not make as many mistakes and create gaps in my knowledge. You are not alone though, I end up calling myself stupid for not being able to answer problems, but doing so only makes my situation worse. It is indeed difficult to cope.

    Good. Excellent. You have the will and the determination to succeed. To me this is the only thing you need to be successful. As long as you have this attitude you'll be fine, just don't overstress yourself. I was dealing with something like this a week or so ago
    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=66443. Sure, some people may be naturally talented at this sort of stuff, but sometimes working from the ground up on just drive alone can lead to a deeper understanding of the material.

    Don't give up hope, never give up hope.
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2005
  10. Mar 17, 2005 #9
    Hope is the only thing I have right now. :wink:

    There's no way to go but forward, so I'm going. I'm just frustrated that I'm not moving fast enough and that I wasted a lot, and I mean A LOT, of time and energy in the past. Whether it's never too late or not doesn't matter to me as I can't give up now.
  11. Mar 17, 2005 #10
    Great. In the words of Edward Albee, "Sometimes it's necessary to go a long distance out of the way in order to come back a short distance correctly."

    You may not see much progress now, but im certain it will show up later. Slow progress is still progress. Just remember to keep your wonderment alive even when things get difficult. The last thing you need is to get frustrated with the subjects that you love.

    Keep plugging away at it. It may be frustrating and difficult at times, but such is the nature of learning difficult concepts. It will be the path to your success. Good luck.
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2005
  12. Mar 17, 2005 #11


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    Just keep goin at it fancy. And most likely, if its E/M, its not the professor whos the antichrist, its the course lol.
  13. Mar 17, 2005 #12

    Tom Mattson

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    :rofl: One of my students (who is also a PF member) said the same thing about me.
  14. Mar 17, 2005 #13
    Well, don't hate the professor. Remember that the average physics professor is about twice smarter than a normal person. I mean, they are smart, but most have trouble explaining things out to people who never had any background on physics. My teacher is the same way. He does not speak English very well, and goes really fast. When I ask for worked out example problems, he said I was asking for too much help. So your best bet is upperclass men, or SPS.
  15. Mar 17, 2005 #14
    My prof. is supposed to be the best at my school. He's pretty famous and known for being hard too.

    My problem with him is that he doesn't 'teach' anything but just talks too much and writes everything so fast (I also can NOT for the life of me read his hand writing). It's like he's just reviewing physics for a bunch of senior students..

    Also, he embarrasses and humiliates people in his class. I don't attend the class and try to study on my own because of that. I worry too much about attending because of anxiety and obessive thoughts about embarrassment so I just stay away .
  16. Mar 17, 2005 #15
    Try to be assertive in how you feel. That doesn't mean "don't take no guff from nobody", but make sure he knows how you feel.

    A Ph.D. or a superior knowledge is not the only standard for teachers. Teachers should be confident in what they do, and carry around plenty of patience and empathy for students. Any lack of the latter two makes a terrible teacher. It's these particular teachers who carry high standards and vent out on the students if they don't follow the instruction.

    Anywho, if you don't understand something then speak up. It's most likely when you're far beyond voicing the problem that it shows itself (i.e. a teacher embarassing you).
  17. Mar 17, 2005 #16


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    Thats definitely unacceptable. This isnt like elementary and high school where you just gotta deal with your teacher. These people are in a sense, your employees and you have the right to file complaint against them. Unfortunately if he has tenure... theres not much you can do.. otherwise you should complain. Hell its your money
  18. Mar 17, 2005 #17
    He has been in my school for decades I think. :rofl:

    anyway I think it's mostly because of my anxiety that whatever he says is taken too seriously. Other students agree with me on the embarrassment thing but don’t really complain because he doesn't do it much. Like I said my anxiety makes things much worse. I still have his voice echoing "EVEN A BLITHERING IDIOT CAN DO THIS INTERGRAL" in my head whenever I study math lol but I'm trying to get over it by knowing the material and gaining confidence from there.
  19. Mar 17, 2005 #18
    Teacher aside, if you want to improve your analytical ability and the like, take some time out of each day to really ponder the material you're learning. The key is to creatively think about different ways to use the equations and relationships you're taught and seek to apply them in different ways. In the process of taking things apart you learn how to put things together and solve new problems. It's kinda like excercising your brain. Good luck.
  20. Mar 17, 2005 #19
    He embrasses you? There might be a solution to that problem then. File complaints, and see if you can argue to take that course as a Pass/Fail instead of credit.
  21. Mar 17, 2005 #20

    Math Is Hard

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    I got better by doing lots and lots of practice problems (and by making up new practice problems just to see if I could stretch even farther).
    When I struggled I was able to get help from Tom Mattson, who is one of the nicest and most helpful anti-Christs I have ever met. :biggrin:
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2005
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