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Math Is a career in mathematics only for early starters?

  1. Dec 29, 2009 #1
    I have read stories of "late bloomers" who retrain and manage to establish a successful career in other disciplines, but does it happen in mathematics, specifically in pure mathematics?

    As an outsider, I don't really have much experience or knowledge of how things work in this discipline: the cliché I have in my head is that of kids who start early and are being put on extremely ambitious advanced programmes, but am not sure if this is the whole truth.

    I know if someone started to learn the piano at the age of 14 they would have no chance of becoming a concerts pianist, but they could probably be a good jazz musician, composer, or teacher.
    Is and early start of more importance in some areas maths than others?

    thanks :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 29, 2009 #2
    Joking aside, the most important thing is you like it and enjoy doing it. I always encourage people to follow their heart. I discovered Electronics was and still is my calling at the ripe old age of 26 and I made a good career out of it. I was a senior engineer and manager of Electronic engineering before I retired. It is still my passion and I am still hanging around here studying PDE and EM. Don't let the age stop you. I jumped a lot of steps when I when into electronics. You be surprised a little common sense can make up so much short coming of lack of school knowledge. Now I am making up all the school work I missed!!! Still going strong at the age of 56!!!!

    Never say it's too late.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2009
  4. Dec 30, 2009 #3
    I think that's mostly 'cause the techniques won't be ingrained as autonomous actions quite the same way; it has to do with training muscles to automatically move such that the technique is great. Past a certain age, it gets harder to train the body to do certain things, 'especially those tasks that require lots of dexterity/flexibility. Classical playing relies on perfect technique to a much higher degree than jazz, composition, or teaching.

    Math doesn't have any of that physical overhead; it's all mental. Mental plasticity is a different ball field than the physical stuff, and most studies say it's a lot more flexible, so you can learn new stuff even as you get older. The hardest part is training to think like a pure mathematician, but it may even be better to be an outsider in some ways so long as you know the conventions of the discipline.
  5. Dec 30, 2009 #4
    Thank you for your replies

    posted by story645:
    I am only at the start of my adventure with mathematics, and I think considering a career in it personally would be a bit far fetched at the moment, but wanted to know what is the reality of the profession, because currently it is all a bit mysterious to me and I am simply curious.
    For example in some professions an early start is mandatory, in others completely irrelevant, so I was wondering where maths lies on the spectrum.

    In a way I want to know if this discipline is more hermetic than lets say physics.

    I will have a look through other threads on here.

    posted by yungman:
    I am happy to have discovered this forum because it has made me aware that it is possible to take charge of your own learning in areas which I have previously presumed to be inaccessible if one missed out on a good maths education in secondary school.
    It is a brilliant thing to have discovered :)

    Happy Holidays
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