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Math Advice Needed

  1. Sep 17, 2006 #1
    Ok, so I finished my first week of undergrad this Friday. Going into the math faculty here, my original goal was to major in either pure math or applied math (with focuses on physics). Like a lot of aspiring undergrads on these message boards, I'd like to continue on into grad school and study either math or physics, and eventually work in math and physics related fields (though maybe I'm looking too far ahead into the future)

    My university offers enriched versions of the regular math classes for the top students in the math faculty that involve a lot more rigorous proof work. Though I feel that I can follow along with most of the lectures in class, and definitely do find them interesting, the difficulty of the first assignment is making me nervous. I basically spent this entire weekend working on this one algebra assignment, completely ignoring my other four courses, and I still don't think that I'll do very well on it, especially considering the amount of effort I've put into it. Judging by what the professor has mentioned before in lectures, the difficulty of future assignments and exams will be comparable to this assignment, if not more difficult. What really worries me, is that there are other students in my class, who aren't even considering majoring in pure math, who seem like they are completely familiar with the material (from past experiences with math contests).

    I am starting to doubt whether or not I actually belong in the enriched classes, and with those doubts, I'm starting to wonder if I belong in a math program at all!

    I guess this entire long and meandering rant is pretty much building up to the question of what applied math is like (since these advanced courses were supposed to give me a taste of what pure math majors generally do). If I am running into problems proving the characteristics of integers, divisibility, etc, is that indicative of how much difficulty I'm going to run into in applied math and physics?

    Maybe I should consider going into another discipline like engineering or a science program.

  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 17, 2006 #2
    I can't help you with your question, but I can give you some encouragement.

    You have to ask yourself, why do I want to study Pure mathematics? For most people, it is a love and enjoyment that math brings to their life. It isn't a job that is taking up, but something most people(who are in the field) wanted to do since a young age. At least, that is how it is in my experience.

    If you feel like you are like that, then I suggest you spend some time working on it. Regardless of the major you choose, you will run into difficulties. The important thing isn't that it is hard, but that you do it because it is hard. Also, it does not matter that the other people in your class are use to the material. You should take this as sign that you should get help from your professors and fellow classmate. Use this as a chance to learn more maths. As a professor of mine once told my class, "Whichever field you choosen to be a part of, it matters not. The key element to success is to a, love it, and b, live it. If you fullfil those two coniditions then your equation will always come out correct. I am a proof to that."

    So overall, stay focus and work hard. It may be hard at first and even harder later, but if this is somthing you truly want to do, then it will make the degree in your hand much more worth it.

    And if this isn't what you want to do, then well, i wasted my time!
  4. Sep 18, 2006 #3


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    Stick it out, Keep on working and you will eventually see the results. Chances are that if you're finding your courses difficult then the other guys are finiding it difficult as well.
  5. Sep 18, 2006 #4
    I had a chance to take a look at the assignments for the regular math courses, and they were rather bland. After thinking about it some more, I've decided to stay in the classes that I'm already in. Thanks for the responses guys
  6. Sep 18, 2006 #5


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    My first thought is to say:

    It's not a race!

    ...but I know at UG level this isn't always true - you have to get good grades to get accepted into the grad programs etc.

    I'd say, stick at it and don't obsess over a single project.

    If you've spent a whole weekend on one assignment, that's not very good for you grades overall. Do the hard questions but also leave time for everything else!

    I'm sure it'll sink in soon :smile:
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