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Math major wondering what college minors are and how they work. pros n

  1. Jul 7, 2014 #1
    I am a math major and I am positive I want to major in math. Not sure if I want to do applied or pure tho. I will start my calculus 2 in the fall as well as my intro physics course.

    I am extremely ignorant of what a minor is and what do they do.

    I was thinking of taking physics courses for my electives once I transfer to the university in 2 years.
    I will be practicing programming for fun.

    My goal is to actually understand the mathematical concepts and not just get by with a passing grade and not have any knowledge.

    My ideal job is going into teaching preferably at the cc level. But before I do I want to work in the private sector (not sure what yet).

    Would getting a minor in physics supplement my understanding of math. Or are minors a waste of time and just learn anything I am interested in on my spare time?

    Please can you guys explain what minors are to the t? Thanka
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 7, 2014 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    Did you read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minor_(academic [Broken]) ?

    If so, do you still have questions?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  4. Jul 7, 2014 #3
    Basically you'll take a handful of classes in whatever subject, typically the "core" requirements for that major, and maybe a few electives. What this "does" for you is up to you. It could be something you want to intersect with your major, or something you are just academically interested in, or just something you want to do that has nothing to do with any of that. (Sometimes people minor in something for the pure joy of the subject.)

    Minors usually take advantage of the fact that you will have to take a lot of electives anyway. So they're not really a waste of time in that sense. It will provide some focus to the electives you are already taking.

    What you want that minor to "do" is up to you. Minoring in physics will give you a good boost in doing applied mathematics. Minoring in photography or classic literature or history will give you a personal enrichment experience that you will keep with you forever. And you never know when there will be crossovers.

    You ask if minoring in physics will supplement your understanding of math. It is more the other way around. Physicists tend to refer to mathematics as the language of physics. (Mathematicians probably think it's something quite a bit more than that, but then we can call physics "applied math" and call it even).

    I believe lots of math and physics teaching is needed. For Community College level, at least a masters is usually required.

    -Dave K
  5. Jul 7, 2014 #4
    A minor is a nice thing to be able to put on your resume or tell employers. It's a bit more compact than trying to list classes you took. So, that's one thing it can do.

    There are a lot of different levels on which knowing some physics can help with math. At the most basic community college teaching level, it is helpful to have at least taken introductory physics because it gives some examples and inspiration for calculus and differential equations. Studying a subject like electricity and magnetism completely changed the way I see calculus 3, and I would say the time I spent studying it was worthwhile for that purpose alone. I think you can't really understand PDE's without knowing some physics. Of course, if you take it to the level that I did, it will probably take up too much of your time.
  6. Jul 7, 2014 #5
    Could you expand on that a bit, if it is not too off topic?
  7. Jul 7, 2014 #6
    It's somewhat on topic. I'm not a PDE expert, but I did take two classes, plus read an extra book. The three big examples are the wave equation, the heat equation, and the Laplace equation. Something like the wave equation historical arose from studying vibrating strings. To understand where it comes from, you should at least take an introductory physics class. Without some of that historical background, it seems like a pretty boring mess of symbols to me. Similar things might be said for the heat equation and the Laplace equation. And not just the motivation for studying the subject, but also specific concepts, like Green's functions, for example, make a lot more sense if you think of them physically, as a point source of some sort, rather than just as a solution when the equation has the mysterious delta function in it. You'd understand them better if you studied electricity and magnetism a little bit or maybe some other physics subject.

    Personally, I never even would have gotten interested in math if I had not taken a physics class at the end of high school, which I only did because my high school counselor recommended it. That was how I started trying to understand math on a deeper level, and not just plug and chug and leaving understanding to chance.
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