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PhD after a related masters

  1. Jul 22, 2014 #1
    I have a bachelors in math and want a graduate degree.

    There is a degree at a nearby school that is not "mathematics" but is "Masters of Science in Community and Technical College Mathematics." A lot of it is online, so I can continue working.

    Even if I did very well in this program, does the fact that it is not titled "mathematics" make it a poor choice if I intend to seek a PhD (in math), regarding both admission to a school and the preparation this program would give? What if I purposely used the elective slots to make it serve this purpose?

    Thank you.

    Link
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 22, 2014 #2

    jedishrfu

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    You should read about the purpose of the degree, my guess is that its for college level instructional math teaching (i.e. an education degree) which would probably be a poor choice for a true math degree. Also you could talk to the people teaching it to see what they have to say and what your desire is like maybe you'd like to be a teacher more than a mathematician.
     
  4. Jul 22, 2014 #3

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    The problem isn't that it isn't titled mathematics. The problem is that it isn't mathematics - it's about the teaching of mathematics. That's not a bad thing, but it's also not a step on the path to a mathematics PhD program.
     
  5. Jul 22, 2014 #4
    So, the thing is, this is offered online and so is pretty convenient while working to save up money. I spoke to someone from that program on the phone, and she claimed that two graduates were admitted to good PhD programs (whether they fully prepared for them, I cannot say).

    And, teaching college courses is what I'm interested in to a large degree. I am not extremely interested in being a mathematician in industry, but I would like to be a professor and do research some day. Basically, I do want to teach, but I don't want to be limited to being an adjunct instructor forever.
     
  6. Jul 22, 2014 #5
    Did the two graduates do a PhD in math research, or math education? Both degrees exist and math education degrees are sometimes from the math department and sometimes from the education department.
     
  7. Jul 22, 2014 #6

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    Yes, but those two PhD candidates may have gotten in on the strength of the undergraduate degrees. After this program, you are not really any more qualified for graduate study in mathematics.
     
  8. Jul 23, 2014 #7

    OK. Can I ask what about the program is a red flag?
     
  9. Jul 23, 2014 #8

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    Look at the curriculum. Look at the entrance requirements. Look at the curriculum of a typical math PhD program, and what background they expect their students to have.
     
  10. Jul 23, 2014 #9

    jedishrfu

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    Graduate Math programs are very particular about whom they let in. The math is all about patterns, proofs and extending mathematical abstractness to the ultimate level of understanding.

    Mathematicians are unfettered by the demands of the world and can imagine any type of logical system of thought looking for patterns, proofs and pudding everywhere...

    Not everyone can do this sort of abstract math whereas teaching math is a whole different sort of trade.
     
  11. Jul 23, 2014 #10
    When I compare the required courses and choices of electives for a normal masters in math program, I don't see a huge difference. I also don't see any difference at all regarding entrance requirements when I look at MS in Math programs at comparable schools.

    The program in question has prerequisite courses that no one but a math major would have taken at my university. They were pretty much exactly my undergraduate curriculum.

    The only difference I see is that I could choose to have a heavy focus on education, or not.

    When I look at http://www.coes.latech.edu/grad-programs/MS_MATH.pdf [Broken] for example, they seem comparable.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  12. Jul 23, 2014 #11

    jedishrfu

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    You wont get a definitive answer here, you really need to talk with people in the department and see if they would accept you if you chose this route.
     
  13. Jul 24, 2014 #12

    OK, thank you
     
  14. Jul 24, 2014 #13

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    Here is what Illinois requires for its PhD applicants: http://www.math.illinois.edu/GraduateProgram/undergrad-prep.html While it doesn't say this explicitly, these are intended to be largely proof-based classes. (e.g. "Differential equations" is not the class that follows elementary calculus)

    The entry requirements for the Nichols program include precisely zero of these. Afterwards, you will have met one, or perhaps two of them, depending on the electives.

    This program is intended to prepare someone for a career of teaching 16-22 year-olds. It is not intended to prepare someone for a PhD in mathematics.
     
  15. Jul 24, 2014 #14
    I see. What I'm also considering is that performing well in this program may open up more possibilities for entry into a program for a true masters in math afterwards. Do you think that is more reasonable? It would be convenient and cheap for me to participate in it, so any type of potential gain is probably worth it.
     
  16. Jul 24, 2014 #15

    jedishrfu

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    I can't help but think you are trying to fit the facts to the hypothesis that this route will work. As I said before, you won't get a definitive answer here only by talking with people in the Math department.

    Even people with Physics or Engineering backgrounds have great difficulty getting into Math graduate programs if ever they do and I don't know anyone who has. Mathematicians are looking for specific kinds of people who have shown they can think abstractly, who have shown a skill in identifying hidden patterns in disparate fields of research and who have a knack for understanding the hidden meaning in proofs. Applied math skills are a narrow field in thier view and just doesn't fit that bill and so they will not consider you for graduate studies.
     
  17. Jul 24, 2014 #16
    I have to say I'm a bit confused. People with a bachelors in math are considered for masters programs, obviously. How can I be not considered for masters program with a bachelors in math and with a masters in a math related program? I don't understand this.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2014
  18. Jul 24, 2014 #17

    jedishrfu

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    The bottom line is that your undergrad degree will help but the graduate program won't and it might even be a detriment. There is a view that good mathematicians produce most of their significant work before the age of 40 hence the Fields medal is only awarded to people under 40.

    The paraphrased quote from George Bernard Shaw: "Those who know do and those who don't teach" comes to mind and it may be part of the underlying attiitude. G H Hardy in his Mathematician's Apology once said he was proud that his work had no intrinsic value beyond the field of Mathematics. (He was evetually proved wrong because his work got used in cryptoanalysis but thats another story)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Mathematician's_Apology

    And please go talk to your old math professors maybe they can explain it better. Perhaps its an attitude stemming from Math being the Queen of the Sciences that pervades.

    I don't know but one math told me that they tend to look down on other majors trying to get into the graduate program preferring pure math majors. In your case, your plan is to go in as an MS in this math-related program which while it shows you like math doesn't show you've maintained that purity of thought from your BS in Math.

    Also I found this paper for applying:

    http://www.swarthmore.edu/Documents/academics/math/grad_GRE/MathGradSchool.pdf

    and this one:

    http://www.math.purdue.edu/jobs/careers/faq

    I can't offer any more than my opinion but I really need to stress that you should talk to profs in your undergrad college and profs in the program you're thinking of and even profs in a pure graduate level math program for what they think.

    I'm not trying to discourage you but to get you to really seek out someone in the field to give you solid advice so you don't have any regrets later on.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2014
  19. Jul 24, 2014 #18

    OK, I understand and will take your advice.

    I just didn't see how it could be a detriment. That still doesn't seem very reasonable to me. But I will talk to my professors.
     
  20. Jul 24, 2014 #19

    jedishrfu

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    A coworker here told me that Math Education people get paid pretty well teaching at the high school and community college level so as a career you couldn't go wrong. He also said he wasn't sure that its a detriment but you should still check with people in the know. He has friends who work in the Math department at a local college.

    So that pretty much exhausts my knowledge of the subject. Good luck! I'm anxious to see how you make out which ever way you choose.
     
  21. Jul 24, 2014 #20

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    I think the thing you are missing is that most math undergraduate degrees are not sufficient preparation for a PhD program. Heck, I was one course away from a SB in math from MIT, and I was (and am) nowhere near qualified for a PhD program in math. This masters program is not intended for preparation for a PhD school, and as such is a waste of time if that is your goal.
     
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