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My main concern: I may not have received great mathematical education in high school

  1. Mar 2, 2009 #1
    Let me start by giving a bit of background information about myself: I'm 24 in April. I'm a business student. When I first started college, I chose business because I really had no idea what to do and business was the route I took for safety. Flash forward to the present, where I've been in school for 3 years, and just realized this was the biggest mistake I've ever made. Slowly, my mind has been changing on the matter, and I've finally found something I wouldn't just feel safe doing, but something I think I would love doing. I'll get on with the purpose of the thread. If I continue on in this matter I'll make my way into philosophy and I'll save that for its respective forum :tongue:

    Obviously, I've chosen a career in engineering. Electrical, to be exact. By now, you probably completely understand the thread title. There are two reasons for my concern: 1) I haven't taken a math class in two years, 2) My math knowledge is mostly founded on what I learned attending one of the worst school in Houston, TX.

    I had a natural ability in math and physics, finding them so easy in high school and early college that they were always on the back burner while I focused on my other courses, and I did very well in them anyway. However, I'm afraid that I may have lost the wit required to do math, since I haven't been feeding those parts of my brain in years.

    I know that I should begin to bone up on them. If I switch majors, I will have until the Fall semester to ready myself for college-level Calculus and Physics courses. I'm planning on taking tutorials, and I've already begun reading some very good Dover publications ("How to Calculate Quickly" by Henry Sticker, and "Essential Calculus with Applications" by Richard Silverman).

    My real question is (did it take me long enough to get here?) how intensive are the math courses for engineering degrees? How quickly do they move? Assuming I didn't spend the next several months revamping my mathematic mind, would I be in for hell once I began freshman level Calculus? To put it in an awful sounding way: Do they hold your hand, or is it a free-for-all?

    Thanks for any help. And any other advice you think is applicable to my situation would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 2, 2009 #2

    lurflurf

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    Re: My main concern: I may not have received great mathematical education in high sch

    Freshman calculus does not require much independent thought.

    -The book will read
    "This is how problems of type 1237 are solved..."
    "here are 10 examples..."
    "here are 3 for you to do so you understand"
    -in lecture they will say
    "suppose we have a problem type 1237, here is how we solve it..."
    "now watch as I do 5 of them..."
    -In homework you will be required to do 30
    -in office hours someone will ask "how do we solve problem type 1237?"
    The TA will say "you saw that in lecture"
    student says "I do not understand"
    TA repeats what the professor says at 1/2 speed
    student says "I still do not understand"
    TA repeats what the professor says at 1/3 speed
    student says "I am starting to get it"

    As far as not understanding any of the math before calculus, yes that can make calculus much harder. In fact it is likely more students fail calculus because of lack of precalculus than because of calculus itself. Calculus can be learned by almost any one who puts in the effort.
     
  4. Mar 2, 2009 #3
    Re: My main concern: I may not have received great mathematical education in high sch

    Thanks. You've settled something for me. I was going to just refresh precalculus on my own, but now I'm going to take it in the summer just make sure I get a great handle on everything I've forgotten over the years.

    I appreciate the reply :smile:
     
  5. Mar 2, 2009 #4
    Re: My main concern: I may not have received great mathematical education in high sch

    The highest math course I took in high school was pre-algebra.
    I never took Algebra, Trig, pre-calc, or calc when I returned to college....for math and physics.

    I self taught myself differential calc and took Calc II and Calc III in my first semester back.....I really had to work to keep up on the concepts from earlier classes that I'd never had, but I ended up okay.

    There is still a random concept that is "old hat" to everyone else that is new to me, but I feel I'm pretty well caught up and have done well in my math courses.

    If you did well in math before, I'd imagine you'll be fine. If you have the ability for logical mathematical thought, I'm sure that will carry over.

    I'm still new to math and am only taking Differential Equations and Linear Algebra, but it seems to me that until you get through the typical Calculus, linear algebra, diff eq series....you're given much more application rules than theory.....at least that's what I've seen.

    Talking to students in more advanced classes....it seems they didn't feel they really started "Math" until they started analysis and modern algebra.
    I've had physics students tell me they never felt they were "doing physics" until E&M too.



    I don't know if you'll feel the same way...but I've found self studying to be MUCH easier with those little "teach yourself" soft cover books that are somewhat "out of date."

    I still pick up one of those books for differential equations when our textbook takes 12 pages to poorly explain a concept.....it always seems those old books make everything much more obvious....in much less space.

    Could be me though
     
  6. Mar 2, 2009 #5
    Re: My main concern: I may not have received great mathematical education in high sch

    Yeah. At this point, I've determined that Dover publications do the best teaching job of any textbook I've ever used, regardless of concentration.

    Thanks for the reply.
     
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