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Mathematics and Poetry

  1. Apr 4, 2008 #1
    All right, so I'm kind of an oddball. I'm currently a sophomore in college studying Mathematics and English Literature. I started college as an English major, but I decided to pick up a second major after taking calculus I. I'm currently taking vector calculus and differential equations and doing pretty well in both classes. I'm also doing really well in all of my English courses. As of right now, I want to pursue further studies in mathematics after I have finished my bachelor's degree. I realize that there is absolutely no crossover whatsoever in either subject (Although, one of my poetry professors seems to be exceptionally well versed in Set theory), and I'm wondering if schools will look down on the fact that I spent half of my undergraduate career analyzing The Great Gatsby and writing poetry. Should I drop down to a minor, so I can focus on the math?
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  3. Apr 4, 2008 #2
    I was an English major right up until my third year. The required reading for my third year courses ate up a hefty chunk of my time. If you're trying to major in math and English with the intent of math grad school, you might be better off dropping the English Lit to a minor and focusing on doing really well in the mathematics core (linear algebra, abstract algebra, advanced calculus).

    Grad schools aren't bound to care about what else you do, but definitely make sure those math courses go well. It'll help your application and help you to obtain better recommendations.
  4. Apr 4, 2008 #3


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    The only real problem would be you wouldn't have as many math classes as someone with just a math major which could put you at a disadvantage for gradschool applications. The electives that you could use for more upper division classes and graduate classes would be needed to fulfill the English major.
  5. Apr 4, 2008 #4
    meh do what you enjoy. all they care about is dedication and creativity and doing two unrelated and creative majors exemplifies just that.
  6. Apr 4, 2008 #5
    Thanks for all the advice. I'm also curious if the path I'm currently on would be suitable for a career in Science writing. That is the only alternative I could see myself doing right after I finish my degree. Is there anyone here who has experience in this field?
  7. Apr 4, 2008 #6


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    An applicable long-shot is that you might change general field direction later in your career development, especially if you enter work in Education. You could very well build enough coursework to be permitted to teach some level of English in public or private schools, as well as to teach Mathematics. Your writing skills could be enhanced through the English coursework also. Your English courses could give you the improved tendency to look for and express analogies and metaphors for when you want to communicate clearly with people who may have far less technical understanding than do you. Having a few too many English courses is not a bad thing. Just concentrate more on the Math courses if that is truely your major field.
  8. Apr 4, 2008 #7
    grad school isn't about showing how creative and diverse you are. The OP really should be able to demonstrate excellent proficiency in math and everything else pretty much means nothing.
  9. Apr 5, 2008 #8
    I think the answer to your question depends on how tight your schedule is. If you have just enough space left to complete the *required* courses - at the expense of doing interesting upper-year electives - you might consider reducing to an English minor.

    The English-science combination isn't as rare as you might imagine. When I finished my undergrad in honours physics I was one course and a foreign language short of an English major. I found that the reading for my English classes helped to balance out the homework for my physics and math classes.

    I agree that grad schools only care about your achievements in math. But I think it's a mistake to only do things in undergrad which will "help you get into grad school". Individuals with this attitude are amongst the most boring and most difficult-to-work with people I know. Moreover, it's a skill to develop and pursue your own ideas - in any discipline. People who only do things because they think it will help their graduate school admissions are also demonstrating that they're not willing to take risks. And guess what? When people start applying for faculty positions the well-rounded individuals get the jobs because faculty want to hire someone who they will enjoy working with.
  10. Apr 5, 2008 #9


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    Do what you enjoy. Stranger things have happened than Mathematics and English Literature: I used to be in regular contact with an exceptional mathematician who's undergraduate degree was in Fine Art!
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2008
  11. Apr 6, 2008 #10
    Hey, thanks again everyone for all the advice. I think I will go ahead and stick it out in both fields. I'm definitely going to make the mathematics my primary focus, but if grad schools really won't care that I'm doing an English degree then I will keep studying literature for my own personal satisfaction.
  12. Apr 6, 2008 #11


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    Literature is fine if that is what you enjoy and can develop yourself with such coursework; but you should consider other aspects of English other than just various artistic literature. Consider courses about creative writing, origins & development of English, Linguistics. The idea is that later you could have educational qualifications to use more than, or other than, your Mathematics.
  13. Apr 7, 2008 #12
    I wouldn't worry about it to much. If you find that your upper level math courses eat up all your time, then drop the English major. Not to much of a big deal.

    I did Math and Housing and Interior Design. Best not to ask why I did the latter, but it worked for me lol. I did okay for myself. I am now heading off to Rice for applied mathematics. One of the professors said that my second major is something that pushed me over the edge. He said, "It was unique, interesting, and showed character...and you can make my office look nice."
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