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Possible to self study math?

  1. Jan 19, 2015 #1
    So, I graduated a few years ago with a liberal arts degree and I'm currently working as a programmer. Although I'm pretty good with the practical application of computer programming, my math is horrendously bad. Now that I'm wanting to go back to school, obtain an advanced degree, and change fields, I'm finding my lack of math knowledge to be a real stumbling block to my professional development.

    When I say my math is horrendously bad, I mean shocklingly bad. I can pretty much do just basic algebra (think pre Algebra+1) and that's it. It's not that I was incapable of learning math, it's just that I goofed off in the classes and never learned the concepts. Since math is a field which functions using building blocks of increasingly abstract concepts, that really killed me. The only way I passed math in high school was because the tests were multiple choice and I was clever enough to work backward with each of the solutions.

    I'd like to cover the math that's usually covered in an undergraduate CS program, which generally includes Calc I, II, III, linear algebra, differential equations, probability and statics, etc...

    I know it's a tall order and I have a loooooong way to go, but does anyone have some advice?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 19, 2015 #2
    That's a lot of material if you consider yourself behind to begin with, but with all the material available online and elsewhere there's no reason not to try self study. Those courses in particular are pretty straightforward, in the sense that you'll basically have to learn and practice a list of concepts in order.

    People tend to like khan academy. I'm not into the style, but most people are, and at worst it's like having a teacher you don't really like. If you covered the material on there, alongside textbooks (look up whatever university you attended/plan on attending's course syllabuses for good ones), that would get you pretty far. Biggest thing for me and self study in math is, when I don't understand something I read, to look at a different book's explanation. Especially with courses up to linear algebra, books tend to emphasize one perspective (like geometric, or analytic, or computational) more than others. Usually one explanation will be more intuitive to you, and also, really understanding something in math means understanding it from every perspective.

    Hope that made sense. Not sure exactly what kinda advice you're after.
  4. Jan 19, 2015 #3
    Thanks, that made sense. I'm not sure exactly what topics I need to study as the field I want to move into (data science/analytics) is emerging and it seems like all of the schools I'm looking at have vastly different requirements. I'll check out Khan Academy.
  5. Jan 24, 2015 #4
    As far as I understand, most people working in data science are mathematicians. But maybe I only know the mathematicians and there's a place for people in other areas. I have half a toe in some data science-y stuff, though, and have had to teach myself a lot that wasn't covered in an undergrad math degree. Either way, like you said most understand computer science majors are required to take at least up to linear algebra, so you might as well try that. That's definitely not impossible to teach yourself if you're interested in it. And you might've already considered this, but community college classes might be a good cheap way to keep yourself accountable for getting through the material. Data science is super rad, so good luck!
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