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Math Major is this too heavy of a schedule?

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  • Thread starter hedgie
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  • #1
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Main Question or Discussion Point

I am an undergraduate math major with a focus on pure math and statistics. I am looking to take the following in one semester:

Intro to Real analysis II
Advanced Calculus (more computational not as much analysis based)
Advanced Linear Algebra (the second undergrad course, proof based)
Math Stats II
Modern Algebra I (obviously same as abstract)

Is this too heavy of a load for one semester or is it doable. I am concerned about taking both Modern Algebra and Intro to RA II in the same semester, but I do not have any more time before grad school to pick them up and I really need them both. I had contemplated replacing Modern Algebra with Stochastic processes but would prefer not to if this load is manageable. I work hard so I assume it is. As well I am going to try to self study Analysis, Advanced LA, Modern Algebra and Adv Calc before I take them...I do not know how far I can get but I will give it a good shot because I will only have 12 hours the semester before.

My background is Cal I-III, Linear Algebra (computational but with proofs), Math Stats I, Discrete, Intro to RA I, Diff Eq 1 & 2, Intro to Numerical Analysis, and Probability Theory.

Thanks for honest opinions...I know grad math students typically take four courses if they are not TAing so I am under the assumption this will be hard but manageable. Please let me know if this is illogical.

Thanks for taking the time to help me out!
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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i would take no more than one math class per semester. too much workload = burnout
 
  • #3
i would take no more than one math class per semester. too much workload = burnout
Are you being sarcastic?

To OP, how many math classes have you taken at once before? If you have taken a similar workload then this shouldnt be an issue at all.

5 math classes in a single semester shouldnt be too bad if you have been doing well so far.
 
  • #4
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I have taken three math courses and an econometrics grad class, a general business course and a computer programming course at once.

And I will do another semester with just four math courses and some free time to prep for this heavier semester.

So you think the 5 is OK? Especially with the self study prep? Thanks for the reply...or maybe I'll just stick to one a semester :) Precal....
 
  • #5
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Bad advice from elfboy. If you limit yourself to one per semester, it will add years to your degree.

Hedgie, what does your academic advisor say?
 
  • #6
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I had ignored elfboy's advice and took it as a Joke...I suppose I should address it that way so others who read the forum don't miss that.

I have yet to ask my advisor. He was OK with four per semester and never hesitated with it. But these are three proof based courses and two applied courses. The four in one semester are just one proof based and three applied.

I really think I'll be OK and will definitely ask my advisor as well. My Graduate advisor didn't think twice about it and thought it was fine/normal, and expected I should be able to handle such a load if I am to go onto grad school and I have months to prepare via self study. I was trying to get people's opinions who had done such a course load or something similar. As well, any advice in subjects to prepare more and maybe a self study book for Modern Algebra. I have Axler's LA Done Right and a bunch of RA books, but nothing for Modern Algebra.

Any advice as I see you have been around for quite awhile! Thanks in advance, and thanks for responding!
 
  • #7
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thats a lot. i don't say dont do it if you are a marathon man, but i do say do not be discouraged if it does not work out.
 
  • #8
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Thanks MathWonk...I respect your opinion as I have read many of your posts. Would four be do able...maybe dropping the abstract algebra? or dropping the Math Stats?

I should have mentioned in the first post I cannot afford to do poorly meaning at most 1 or 2 B's....

You are a math prof right? Would you not think that undergraduate load was capable for a mature (read older and hopefully wiser...relative to when I was younger :) of course ) student ready for grad school.........or still too much?

Thanks again.
 
  • #9
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Yes stupid idea. Is this an American university? There's no way you would take all classes within your major at most universities. You have no diversity in schedule. No one cares or is impressed if you finish your degree a year early, so why rush?
 
  • #10
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Yes its American University. Yeah, I am already done with all my other course work and all the classes are pre-req's for grad school....I am older so I don't have the luxury of time. That's the only reason other wise I'd max it out at three courses. It has nothing to do with being impressed of finishing a degree quickly...it has todo with the fact I may not get to take the courses period. I am not a 22 year old undergrad with 5 years of time to blow. I am trying to get in a PhD program and do not have the time to spread it out. So I can take 4 or 5, if 5 is irrational I'll drop it and just take the proper 4.

If that is everyone's opinion what 4 seem the most workable? Just drop Modern Algebra?

In grad school in American Universities students take four courses and these are graduate classes. Why would five undergrad classes too much?

Thanks for the advice.
 
  • #11
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Even though I'm only a first year undergrad, the best way to see whether you would be able to handle the courseload or not is to sit in all these classes until the drop date. That way you would get the syllabi, test/exam dates for each class and would be able to see which day each class' homework is due. So that way you can see how much work it would be and whether or not you'd be able to manage it. I did exactly this, this semester and ended up dropping the extra class which I wanted to take because it just would have been too much work. You seem definitely seem dedicated, so good luck.
 
  • #12
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If you are going to drop a course I would say drop Math Stats II. The other courses seem more essential. In fact, those five seem a big ask; but maybe see how it goes and if it's too much then drop Math Stats II.
 
  • #13
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Personally, I wouldn't take more than four math classes in a given semester--not because I'd be worried about being able to manage the workload (though I'd certainly have my concerns), but because I wouldn't want to find myself in the position that I get so caught up in merely trying to stay afloat that I don't get as much out of the classes as I could. I'm taking four math classes this semester and it's working fairly well, but next semester, I'm probably going to drop that number down to three. I could handle a fourth, probably, but given that I'll be taking my first courses in Analysis and Abstract Algebra, as well as my first grad course (in Advanced Linear Algebra), I want to focus on learning as much as I can in those classes.

So, basically, I'd suggest dropping Advanced Calculus or Math Stats II. The other three seem like really fundamental material for a math major, so I'd hang onto them and use the extra free time to get more out of them.

The other thing you need to ask yourself, though, is what your preferred area of graduate study/research is. If you have some idea as to which area(s) of math you like, it makes sense to at least put some time into specializing in those disciplines a bit as an undergrad, so perhaps that could also motivate your scheduling choices.
 
  • #14
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Thank you everyone for the replies/advice...all very helpful.


qspeechc: I had thought about dropping the stats because it is the least essential, but most likely the easiest of the course load, so I thought potentially if four were still to much it wouldn't be as bad with math stats being the fourth. Maybe illogical?

Chaosmaster: If you don't mind me asking which four are you taking this semester? You bring up valid concerns/points that I definitely was thinking/worried about. I need the advanced calculus course as a prerequisite for something the following fall so I think I'd have to keep that. Your next semester sounds similar to the one I am planning, but mine is an intro to RA course and it will be my second, and the advanced linear algebra is at the undergrad level. I wish my Modern (abstract) Algebra, or advanced linear algebra were offered the semester before and then I'd just do three courses, because I think that is closer to the optimal way to learn the stuff, especially when your stuck on concepts or proofs.

You think that those four minus the math stats would be a manageable load where I'd still be learning the material? I was assuming an average of 3-4 hours of study per class period plus 12 hours of courses a week so say 48-60 hours. Does that sound about right? Of course that depends on how much I can prepare the semester before, which I should have made it through the Advanced LA book at worst case, probably read some abstract algebra, made it through a portion of Rudin and some other books, and hopefully covered some of the advanced calculus book. The question will be how much of the RA and advanced Calc I can prep for.

Thanks again to everyone for taking the time to read my post and offer your opinions/advice!
 
  • #15
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Personally I'd say thats alot. Not impossible, but definitely alot. I had 2 physics major classes + 3 math major classes this quarter and it was killin me so bad I had to drop 1 of my math classes; I am also not doing very well in my 2 physics classes.

I agree with CHaosmaster. When I had 5 courses, I constantly felt like I was just barely surviving (actually I was barely surviving in 4 courses and falling further and further behind in the fifth). Any little bump in the road (say you get really sick for a few days, you have an unexpected family emergency, etc etc etc) could put you in a really bad position, you can't assume that life OUTSIDE of school will always remain fine and predictable, you know?

As far as the grad classes go, from talking to T/As and reading my school's catalog, grad students in math and science are usually strictly limited to taking 2 grad classes a term. Sometimes they are allowed to take 3. Im not quite sure if Ive come across any grad student at my campus thats taken four (at least on a normal basis). I could be wrong, but the norm around here is to take 2 grad classes a term.

As far as your current courses go, I see you are taking Real Analysis II and Advanced Calc II, so I assume "Advanced Calc" means Multi-variable/Vector Calc; so at least that class isn't a rigorous math class (ie. as you said more computational), which does help. Since youve taken Analysis I, then you know a bit about what rigorous math classes are like. Usually people find the first Abstract Algebra to be the most difficult math class they take as an undergrad. I do know when I took group theory (typically the topic to be covered in your first Algebra course), I found that every homework set had at least one or two problems that typically took from a few hours to a couple of days to solve. Maybe you're brighter than me, but I think this gives you an idea of the kind of work you should expect when you take a class like Algebra. Just something to think about when considering how much time you will actually HAVE TO spend on these classes (though admittedly, I never did come across any analysis or L.A. problems that took me quite that long to figure out).

Id say four rigorous math class is about the upper-limit of a "doable" semester. Beyond that you really risk falling behind, whether you fall behind because its too much, or because you slack a bit, or because life throws you a curveball (you said you are not some 22 y/o with 5 years to kill, Im not either...so as an adult, I suspect you have adult things to deal with in your life, other than just school, consider this as well when you make your plans, you KNOW life during a term is ANYTHING but predictable).
 
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  • #16
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This semester, I'm taking

Topology
Linear Algebra II (sounds equivalent to your Advanced Linear Algebra)
Graph Theory
Statistical Theory II (equivalent to your Math Stats II)

So, it's three fairly rigorous proof-based classes (the first three) and one that's a computation/proof mix (Stat Theory II). It's a fairly manageable load, but I definitely end up focusing more on performing well in Stat Theory than truly mastering the material (since it's not really my area of interest). It's a solid courseload; I'm still getting a lot out of the other three classes and am doing well all around...at least so far. I bet that you'd probably be okay with four classes as well, so long as you either put in more work than me (I have a lot of other responsibilities, so it's harder for me to really put my heart into Stat Theory) or accept that you might have to "sacrifice" one class just a bit.

Reading through the books in advance will help a lot too. I don't know what the textbooks are for those courses, but Rudin and Axler are both fairly great (I've been looking for a copy of Rudin for myself, actually). As far as abstract algebra books go, I've been enjoying Dan Saracino's book for self-study. It's not overly difficult, but I think it does a very nice job of presenting the material and it's pretty inexpensive. I'd recommend it.
 
  • #17
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First year engineering at my school requires five science courses each semester. The only fluff course is easy to get high grades in, but you have monstrously long and tedious labs that take forever and are really stressful. This semester I'm taking Circuits (avg difficulty), E&M I for engineers (usually around 40% fail this class), Statics (again, a high failure rate), Chemistry for engineers (one of the hardest first year Chem courses because they squish General Chem I and half of General Chem II into one course), and honours calculus II (again, difficult). I'm sure first year courses aren't as hard as the ones you'd be taking, but they're definitely tough. Regardless, it's definitely doable. I mean, I got a 4.0 last semester, and everyone said that that was impossible to do. You just have to be willing to work for it, and understand that you're not going to have as much free time as you'd like. In fact, in second year engineering at my school, a lot of people end up having to take six difficult courses in one semester. Most of them describe the experience in ways I won't repeat, but again, it's doable if you're willing to work for it. Don't think that you have to be a genius to succeed under a tough 5 course load like that. I'm definitely not a genius, just someone who's willing to work hard to understand things.
 
  • #18
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Thank you everyone for the thoughts/comments....all are very helpful and I am taking them all into consideration. I'll update you all as to what I do and how I end up so as to help any others.

Thank Chaosmaster that really sounds similar to what my four course load would be like. I really do not want to sacrifice any learning of the material so I hope to work super hard before and after.....I know that's tough to do. I've got a copy of Rudin and Apostol's analysis books along with a bunch from the library and a few other analysis texts. I also have Friedberg and Axler's LA books, and am getting some abstract algebra books at present.

Again thanks to everyone and any further comments, etc.... are all appreciated!
 
  • #19
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It will be tough, but if you are focused and disiplined about doing your work, you should be fine. I never will have 5 Math courses in one semester simply because there are not enough I need offered at once (small school, 3 math profs). Though next semester I have Calc III, Discrete Methods, Real Analysis, and Math Methods for Physical Sciences and Engineering. Plus Modern Physics on top of that. Though the Math Methods course is actually taught by a Physics teacher.

I will second someone elses post though, if you had to drop one, stats should be the first to go.

One other thing of advice, if you have points that you are caught up, start working ahead. To avoid too much coming upon you at once. Even if it is just reading ahead in the book. You will pick up one thing easier and it will be one less stress when things get rough.
 
  • #20
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Thanks doug! Definitely will stay on top of it.....sounds like you have a full load as well.

I do really appreciate everyone's opinions/advices/comments/etc... it is all very helpful! Thanks a million for taking your time to read my post and post your thoughts/responses.
 
  • #21
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Last semester, I took the following courseload:

Intro to Analysis I
Topology
Abstract Algebra I
Complex Analysis (Graduate level)
ODEs and Dynamical Systems (graduate level).

The first....four-five weeks? Perfectly fine. In fact, I thought my expectations were too high. Once the hws start coming however...it all turned around. Weekly analysis and algebra hws, biweekly complex analysis hw, and random scatterings of hw for the other two? Horrible. I had no time to breath between the hw and sort-of studying for my classes. I had no time to do any reading of my own interest (like, self-studying) or time to rest the mind.

My most horrific experience was finals week. We had a week off before finals week, and I was thinking "Great! I have time to relax a little, catch up in all my classes ,and do well", since I basically did that last year. It didn't happen. Analysis and Algebra had take home exams that were intense. Complex analysis had a part that was also take home. And Topology was in class (I was fortunate enough to not have one for ODEs). It suffices to say that, despite my best efforts, I didn't finish the analysis final.

I was unprepared for it all, sort-of at least. When I signed up for these classes, I had a general idea of the course subject. I didn't count on the hardest professor of the department to be teaching the classes I was taking. This unexpected added difficulty made it extremely harder to keep up. People were dropping out left and right, and I was just freaking out. However, if they weren't teaching the classes, I think I might have retained my sanity and probably learned more (I stopped 'learning' Topology and Complex Analysis towards the end. I just couldn't handle it).

Now, don't get me wrong. As much as whiny and horrible as my story sounds, I still obtained 3 As and 2 B+s. It was nevertheless not an enjoyable experience.

EDIT: I should also note that before that, I've only ever had two at most two math classes in a single semester, one which was rather easy for me, the other which was very stress-fress because of the nature of the class.

My advice:

1. Check who's teaching the classes, try to see how hard they are, how much hw they give, etc. Little things like that can really pile up when you have five classes.
2. Self-study before taking the classes. This helped me a lot with ODEs and Algebra at the beginning.
3. Make friends with people in the classes, since they can help you out if you can't do the hw or whatever.
4. Probably should talk to the professors who are teaching the classes, since they themselves might be able to tell you whether you're crazy or not. And do actually listen to them. I recall the complex professor told me I was crazy towards the beginning and I just nodded with that "it looks like I'm listening to you but I'm not" nod. He was right.
 
  • #22
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I don't know if I just overdo it or not, but I thought 5 or 6 technical (math/science/engineering) was a pretty basic semester. Along with extracurricular projects and such...

From my experience is just go for it if you enjoy the classes. I wish I had the ability to take less classes per semester (scholarship restrictions) but never had the chance. Yes all the horror stories you're hearing are true but it will happen unless you're taking 3 or 4 classes per semester.
 
  • #23
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Thanks viscousflow and l'hopital...like the name by the way!

L'hopital...your semester sounds harder than mine would be given the graduate coursework and my teachers will/would be 'OK.' I've asked my advisor as I know the courses are different at each universit, or at least the depth/time required to devote for a good grade. I know I could probably handle the load just fine, I just really like to learn the subject well.

Now that you have exposure to analysis etc....would you feel more comfortable signing up for such a load or certain it was too much? I gather from your post it is not an experience you'd repeat, but thought maybe if you had a decent prior exposure you might feel OK doing it.

Viscousflow....I always have taken 5-6 or more courses per semester but I think there is a different requirement on 5 semi abstract/proof based math courses (just speaking vaguely since in my case Math Stats won't be very proof based or abstract) versus a schedule of 2 engineering courses, three maths (maybe 1 abstract) and 2 sciences. I am not saying the workloads are different (they maybe different as well though) but the ability to grasp abstract math (and I guess for me this is where the workload would be larger) seems more difficult than if you have diversification and are learning engineering concepts, sciences, and calculation based bath or even if it were 5 courses that were all math application, like the stats course.....maybe I am wrong and correct me if so.

I'm leaning more towards it taking the five, especially since the cost is the same for 12 or 15 hours. The unfortunate thing is I'll never have the opportunity to drop one because you know how it works you sign up for the course load and you have like a week to drop but you never know if you need to drop until like a month or two later. It looks like I'll have two weeks, or about four class periods since these are all 2 x's a week.
 
  • #24
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That seems a little ambitious. I'm doing 20 credits right now, but one of my classes is a social science class (which is a requirement for graduation regardless of major). I'm sure you have similar requirements you need to meet.

English classes, Humanities, etc... I would recommend taking one of those to add some padding to your schedule while still making progess on your degree.
 
  • #25
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That seems a little ambitious. I'm doing 20 credits right now, but one of my classes is a social science class (which is a requirement for graduation regardless of major). I'm sure you have similar requirements you need to meet.

English classes, Humanities, etc... I would recommend taking one of those to add some padding to your schedule while still making progess on your degree.
I should clear this part up. I have already finished two degrees that is done...this is a third degree prepping for grad school...and getting the degree is not the necessity of the courses, its the material is pre-req's for grad school.
 

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