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Pure Mathematics vs. Applied Math vs. Discrete Math

  1. Nov 2, 2009 #1
    "Pure" Mathematics vs. Applied Math vs. Discrete Math

    I'm approaching the point where I'm going to have to decide which four-year university I'm going to finish my Bachelor's degree at. I'm pretty much restricted to colleges in Georgia, and I am primarily looking at Georgia State and Georgia Tech.

    I know that Georgia Tech has a better "reputation," but I'm a bit concerned about the fact that the only mathematics degrees they offer are Applied and Discrete, particularly since my goal is to eventually enter into a PhD. program for Mathematics. Georgia State has a Mathematics undergraduate degree, but (I can't find the rankings right now) I'm pretty sure that GSU is not a Group I school.

    I've just finished reading Steven G. Krantz's "A Mathematician's Survival Guide," and it was an excellent source of information; I have no doubt that it will continue to be a valuable resource. However, Dr. Krantz suggested that a student attend a university where the math faculty are well-known in the field (because letters of recommendation are so important in applying to math graduate school programs); the problem I'm having, in applying that to my situation, is that I don't have the requisite knowledge or experience to even assess how someone is viewed in their field. I can look at the number of recent publications, I suppose, but I don't think that's the same thing.

    Hmm. I suppose I've strayed a bit from the question I was asking, however it is a related inquiry. I feel that the pure Mathematics degree would better prepare me for graduate school, but I'm concerned that not attending a Group I university would hamper my future graduate applications.

    Any help would be much appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 2, 2009 #2
    Re: "Pure" Mathematics vs. Applied Math vs. Discrete Math

    I am not sure of the schools you mentioned but if you want to pursue a graduate program in math, your undergrad should be in math. Pure math and applied math are very different programs - there is some overlap in Calculus, Linear Algebra, and Differential Equations, but even in your second year, the difference is very noticeable.

    As for not attending a top university - pure math doesn't require nice labs and facilities to do your work. As long as your school offers the basic undergrad math courses (real & complex analysis, group, ring, and field theory, etc) you should be in good shape as far as knowledge of the subjects are concerned. If you are worried about research experience, perhaps try talking to people in the department to see if there are opportunities to math undergrads.
  4. Nov 2, 2009 #3
    Re: "Pure" Mathematics vs. Applied Math vs. Discrete Math

    Try to sample both disciplines to see which you like. I'm in an applied math program, but I will take a full year of analysis, a semester of algebra, and an independent topics class in topology. This is together with my required dynamic systems, ODE, PDE, and numerical analysis classes.

    Snobby pure-math types will tell you to avoid applied-math like the plague, but decided for yourself. I think the wave equation from PDEs is quite possibly the coolest thing I've ever seen, but yet I love talking about pure math too!
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