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Math Math Majoring, Career, and Insecurity

  1. Feb 22, 2005 #1
    So I'm getting ready to go to college next fall and I have been worried about my future. I've always figured I'd major in math and do so research or something... But recently I can't help but feel inadequate; I visited my college and met with a math professor and he gave me a bunch of test samples from the high school competition he planned for this year.

    I was surprised that I couldn't solve many of the problems. I'm not too confident on both my knowledge of math, nor on my innate ability. I'm afraid that I'll not be able to keep up in the classes and flunk out of math school... Or maybe worse (I don't know), get a degree (I've been hoping to get a Phd too) but since I'm such a substandard mathematician not be able to get any jobs or tenure anywhere.

    Maybe there is an IQ below which you can't make it as a mathematician...? Or the smarter you are the more successful you are as one. I'm afraid I'm not good enough for either. :cry:
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 23, 2005 #2
    Mathematics is very different from anything you have seen, so no test you took means you can or cannot be a mathematician. Arithmetic, school algebra, and even elementary calculus are all plug and chug, formula based, algorithmic skills that are appropriate for an engineer. Mathematics is about creativity, abstraction, logic and precision; in fact I conjecture that anything which is abstract, creative, logical and precise is mathematics.

    That said, Albert Einstien once said that he was not especially smart, he just worked on his problems for a long time. If you are willingly to try very, very hard to understand new things, then you should study math.
  4. Feb 23, 2005 #3
    After a couple of months in my first university math class I felt the same way, I was struggling and not recieving very good marks. But I studied hard and got an A on the final exam. I decided to take another paper because I needed it for my physics. I began listening in class, worked hard, read the textbook, and surprisingly began to enjoy it. I got an A+ in that paper, and only just missed out on a summer research scholarship :(. Since then I've changed my major from physics to maths and am looking forward to doing more math. University for me starts next week. :)
  5. Feb 23, 2005 #4
    Remember that problems for a competition are likely to be specifically designed to challenge the student, so you shouldn't be too discouraged by that. Also, you might have an unrealistic idea of how good other people are at the subject. I would get that since you plan to major in math you probably achieve a reasonable position in exams. That is really the only way to compare yourself with how others are doing.
  6. Feb 23, 2005 #5
    Honestly, I have found all my university math classes to be a joke. They are simply way too easy. All the professors are too scared to give hard exams because of the student evaluation forms at the end of the year. The only challenging math classes I have taken are the independent study courses I have taken. My highschool AP calc class was BY FAR the hardest math class that I have taken that was taught by someone, the averages on the exams were 60 and below. My highschool calc teacher won awards from the white house for excellence in math teaching maybe thats why? I'm pretty sure that almost every single year my highschool calc teacher taught AP calc, everyone who took AP Calc scored 5 on the AP exam. I should post some of the questions from my highschool calc exams, then everyone would see what a real test on Calc I and Calc II looks like.
  7. Feb 23, 2005 #6


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    A maths degree is worth alot even if you don't become a mathematican. Having a degree in maths (even if it's not a 1st class or 2:1 or whather the US equivalent is) is alot more impressive on your cv than having a degree in a mickey mouse subject like media studies.

    For exmaple a friend of mine just got his first serious job as a staistican after graduating from a reaoanbly good university with a BSc 2:2 (which is an okay but average score) in maths and he is getting about $40,000 pa already.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2005
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