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Prerequisites for applying in a major in mathematics

  1. Nov 28, 2014 #1

    I am 20 years old and I currently hold a bachelor's degree in law because of various reasons and causes ; however, what I wanted to study was mathematics. And I currently wish to study it but I lack all the prerequisites to apply for a major, as I have not taken any calculus classes.

    Three questions : 1. Is there a way for me to somehow get those prerequisites?
    2. I am bad at mathematics - I usually had grades that floated around the 70-75% - ; but with work is it possible to do well?
    3. Is it also possible to not do a major and simply do a baccalaureate consisting of only mathematics?
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 28, 2014 #2


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    Are you working in the Law? Why do you want another degree? Why not simply study the mathematics you enjoy on your own? What are your objectives here? Where are you?
  4. Nov 28, 2014 #3
    Yes, I am working in law - however, I am not a lawyer, as I have not passed the Bar where I live, and don't intend to. I want another degree (in mathematics) because, mainly, I find it hard to study on my own - and I'm not that great at mathematics, which doesn't help - as the resources I have at my dispositions (books, internet, etc.) can never truly help me as much as a teacher, but also because I don't like law and always wanted to study mathematics but could not because of my parents. For me, law is uninteresting and boring, and is purely intellectual attrition in the sense that it takes no thoughts. My objective here is as simple as studying mathematics, there's absolutely no other goal behind it - well, maybe do work related to it, but that would be an unintended consequence.

    I assume you ask me where I live because of financial reasons (in the US going to university costs a lot) ; it's good, and I can afford doing another baccalaureate. I currently live in Ontario, Canada, and I studied in Quebec from primary school until I got my baccalaureate in law.
  5. Nov 28, 2014 #4


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    Before you plunge back into another BS program, you need to ask yourself why you are doing this particular study. You say that you were only a so-so student in math previously; why do you think it is wise to pursue math as a major for a second BS? There are lots of things you could do besides another BS in math.

    By the time you have completed a BS (in law, or anything else), you should have gotten a degree of maturity that would compel you to question t he wisdom of this move, and also, to enable you to learn on your own, if that is really what you want to do. This sounds a bit like wanting to go back to the undergraduate years without the responsibilities of adulthood. Have you really thought this through?
  6. Nov 28, 2014 #5
    I wish to do this particular study because I like mathematics, and there aren't anything more worth doing for me than studying mathematics. Perhaps it is not wise, in the sense that it wouldn't help maximizing my income or it won't transfer itself into any concrete gains, but I do not care about money. So what will I do if I don't try to do that? Take the bar and be a lawyer? Not only do I not like law as such, but I hate doing it, and I don't care about the financial gains it provides (comparatively to other professions). Clearly, for me, there is no reason to do that, I'd rather do nothing. From there, yeah, there are other options instead of studying mathematics, but none that are really worth it.

    Why do you question my aptitude to take responsibilities? It's not like I wish to stop working (or can, like everyone). And, to be perfectly honest, it isn't because one studies a subject in university that they get the aptitudes to study any other subjects on their own. Law is not a rigorous program, it doesn't teach me anything truly worth knowing, unlike other programs such as mathematics.

    For me, the wisest move would have been to have never studied law in the first place (although I did not have much of a choice in the matter), and simply have studied mathematics. But I can't change the past, so the only option I have is to study it now, is it not, if I do not care about law or other things very much? And, for the responsibilities, I don't see what you really mean by that, as I don't wish to stop working, nor do I take studying mathematics to escape (as a distraction) other more important perhaps issues. I have nothing else to do, and don't want to continue doing law.

    Finally, on some level I do feel the opposite of what you are telling me : that I continued to study law, even if I had little choice in the matter, to clear myself from the duty to study mathematics and learn more rigorously.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2014
  7. Nov 28, 2014 #6


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    Academic procedures vary from one country to another, and in the US at least, from one university to another. In the US, some universities allow students to enroll for a second bachelor's degree, others do not.
  8. Nov 29, 2014 #7


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    To the OP:

    I am also from Ontario, Canada and I had finished a BS in mathematics and a MS in statistics at the University of Toronto. One of my classmates had previously finished a BA in philosophy and political science with a minor in computer science (incidentally, also in Quebec), pursued some graduate studies in political philosophy, and worked for a number of years in the IT sector before going back to school and finishing a BS in mathematics (I believe he ultimately finished his PhD in mathematics and is now working in the financial sector).

    So the simple answer is that yes, it is possible for you to pursue a degree in mathematics. Now in your specific circumstance, you did state that you were "bad" in math and that you do not have any prerequisites, including calculus. My suggestion is for you to take courses in calculus or algebra in community college on a part-time basis to at least get a handle on the material, as well as look at online math courses offered in places like Coursera. Also spend some time going through various texts and really work on the various problems. Because the more you practice actually working on math problems (in particular in doing proofs), the better you will become.

    Now I'm a little confused with your second question (about doing a baccalaureate without doing a major). Typically, when you graduate from a program, you typically complete a major or honours degree in math. Within that program you will usually be required to take various courses outside of the math department (the specific requirements will of course differ from school to school). Given that you have already completed a degree in law (which I assume will have required you to take various elective courses in the humanities and social sciences), it may be possible for you to transfer some of your courses to fulfill your elective requirements. You will need to speak to the various schools you are considering to get a better idea of what is possible in this regard.

    Sorry for the long post, but I hope this was helpful.
  9. Nov 29, 2014 #8


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    If you do study for a second BS, this time in math, will you be any better than a so-so student? There is not a whole lot of future for folks who obtain a degree but have only a feeble knowledge of their subject. This is the main reason for my skepticism about the whole project. Unless there has been some change that gives you reason to think you will be a truly outstanding math student, I doubt that the whole matter is worth the time and energy it will require.
  10. Nov 29, 2014 #9
    I was under the impression that the only prerequisites for applying for mathematics was having taken calculus classes? I have done all other required classes up to calculus.

    Perhaps this is tied to your second too as in Quebec the pre-university school system is a bit different in the sense that we have a thing called CEGEP that is between High school and university. During that period, you do, depending on your program (I did humanities - ''sciences humaines'') the equivalent of most introductory classes in university and have to take classes in literature and philosophy, independently of your program. For instance, I took classes on economics, politics, anthropology, etc., which is why I was asking if it was possible to not do a major in mathematics and simply do a baccalaureate, as I have done more classes than one would do electives. It is also during that time that I should have taken the prerequisites, but could not take them because my parents, at the time, did not want me to take them. BTW, they are, if I remember correctly : differential calculus, integral calculus and linear algebra and vector geometry. So it's not that I don't have ''any prerequisites'' it's that I don't have those, which I assumed where the only prerequisites. Sorry for any confusion that might have caused. So does this affect anything?

    Thanks for your answer, cleared somethings up.

    By ''future'', you mean job opportunities? That doesn't bother me too much, to be completely honest. And on the question on whether or not I'll be an outstanding student, I don't know unless I try ; the only thing I can say is that I changed drastically the way I studied (I work more and more consistently) - before, I used to only listen in class and barely do any work up until the day before the exam, which might explain why I did poorly in mathematics, while still being good at other stuff.
  11. Nov 30, 2014 #10


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    If you are not certain of the prerequisites for a BS in math, then find out exactly what they are. Most schools publish this information in their course catalogs, which are available online. Put your legal training to work and do some research.

    I'm not aware of any colleges which require matriculating secondary students to have completed math study thru calculus before enrolling in a BS program; certainly this was not the case when I entered engineering school (although it does help tremendously to have done so).
  12. Nov 30, 2014 #11


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    I am actually familiar with the CEGEP system, which I see as a combination of the Grade 13/OAC system which used to be in place in Ontario until 2003 (I'm revealing my age somewhat) and the first year of a typical community college curriculum offered in Ontario (I have had a number of students from Quebec who later came to study at the University of Toronto). I do recognize that under the CEGEP system you have to choose a major to specialize in (humanities, pure and applied science, computer science, etc.) which you then apply to once you enter university.

    All that being said, your situation now is different in that you are essentially pursuing a second degree as a "mature" student (i.e. someone who is not coming directly from high school) in Ontario. So the prerequisites to pursuing a second degree in the sciences (math degrees are typically considered to be part of the sciences, except in the University of Waterloo, which has its own Faculty of Mathematics unique to North America) will differ. It may well be that you may not need to take any additional courses to enroll as a math student, but I'm not sure.

    My advice to you is to explain your circumstances to the individual schools you wish to apply to, and ask what prerequisites you may need. If you do need any prerequisites, there are many options you can pursue to obtain those, either through individual community college courses or through special adult courses offered through the public school boards where you currently live. Whether you need to do so or not, my earlier advice about taking community college math courses or online courses in math (or independent study through certain select texts) still stand.

    I wish you the best of luck!
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