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Other I would like some advice before switching to a math major

  1. Jan 12, 2017 #1
    I'm in my first year of official physics courses. This semester I am in mechanics 1, mathematical physics, linear algebra, and intermediate lab. I'm not sure whether I should stay as a physics major. Before considering the switch...

    How long did (does) it take you on average to solve a problem in (for example) a problem set for mechanics?

    We have a problem set due next Wednesday which is six questions. I think it took me about four maybe five hours yesterday to do the first two problems, and the rest I don't even know where to begin (I mean I sort of do, but you know what I mean it takes a lot of careful thought). On the other hand with my mathematical physics HW I can get through all or most of it without much strain, and it's basically just a course in mathematics.

    Reasons to switch:

    I feel like if I stay in the physics courses I am in that I will fail this semester. This material is by no means easy and not straightforward. My peers can solve problems way faster than I can. If I didn't get help last semester I would have not been able to pass one of my physics courses. My main worry here is money and time. I think I will have been in school for five years by the time I finish my degree in physics. If I do a math degree the time will be shorter so I would spend less money - and I am also better at math (maybe I can get into honors) which would benefit me in the long run. I know of a girl that got hired straight out of her honors bachelor in mathematics by the CIA to do espionage work. Also, I know that for physics you need to go pretty far in academia to get a job whereas math you don't. If I majored in physics, I don't think I would have a GPA high enough for grad school and so I would be stuck after college. Also my love for math is great, almost more than my love for physics. I've taken Calc 3 and ODE and got nearly 100% in ODE and a 91% in Calc 3 if that says anything. Whereas in physics I have never made greater than a B. Closest was 89.3% in modern physics which isn't you having to actually do physics anyway since it's a course that can be taken by non-physics majors.

    Reasons not to switch:

    Physics is amazing. That's it. I see its applicability everywhere. I didn't grow up a "science kid" like a lot of my peers with maglab shirts or something like that. Therefore I need to work harder than others because I was never brought up with that sort of science-like mindset or drive - it hit me late (not even three years ago) I turned to physics because I knew it was about the universe, and I want to know about the universe.

    I feel like I'm wasting time in college right now because I'm being indecisive. What should I do? Do mathematics where I have an advantage, or do physics because it's amazing but then maybe be broke? I think doing what you love is great but I need to also be practical.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 12, 2017 #2
    Am I not considering something that you think I should consider? Any advice or thoughts would be appreciated especially if you have a similar story.
  4. Jan 12, 2017 #3
    I also usually take 2-3 hours per question when I first start on an assignment with material that I just learned (which I think is very normal).
    If you really enjoy physics, then stay and make sure you are not "force" studying. You should study because you like the material.
  5. Jan 12, 2017 #4

    Stephen Tashi

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    My opinion (as a math major who took some physics course) is that elementary mechanics is not representative of physics in general. If you are solving problems of things rolling down inclined planes, pulleys suspending other pulleys that suspend weights etc. then there is a set of conventions you must learn that are peculiar to that type of problem -e.g. how springs "without mass" differ from springs with mass, which way the force of friction points when a wheel is accelerating to the right, how to think in terms of free body diagrams etc.

    Not being talented at doing problems in elementary mechanics may forecast having problems in future courses in "strength of materials" or robot motion planning - courses that apply classical physics to engineering type problems.
  6. Jan 12, 2017 #5
    I've decided I'd stick it out until the end of the semester. If I can't pass Mechanics I will have to wait another year to take it again which I will not do. So I will switch to mathematics if that turns out to be the case. In the mean time I am going to continue in physics because it's awesome.
  7. Jan 12, 2017 #6
    I switched from a business economics major to computer engineering after the first semester, I failed financial accounting in business and I failed programming module in engineering (wasnt allowed to take the exam, not able to do the labs),
    . I also want to switch to a math major, though am now willing to switch to anything. If you like mathematics (which seems like you do) then by all means do switch.

    Good luck op.
  8. Jan 12, 2017 #7


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    Vitani11, this is hard to understand:
    You seem to have more than enough Mathematics education to handle anything in your beginning real physics - mechanics course. Maybe you were unclear about just which course this is, which you are feeling you are failing. What is the exact name of this Physics course? What is the official course description? What are the official listed Mathematics pre-requisites?

    Maybe you just do not have enough experience in applying Mathematics knowledge to Physics (the beginning Mechanics studies). Some students will struggle to get accustomed to this. (It was a big struggle for me.)

    Just six problems for a homework assignment seems not many enough. Should be about 10 or 12. You might spend about 15 to 25 minute per problem and may need to reread parts of the current chapter pages as you work through the exercises. Four hours to do two exercises? Not good. Maybe you just have not made your adjustment yet.

    Whatever you feel about your current Physics-Mechanics beginning course, the next one, the Electricity & Magnetism course will be harder.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2017
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