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Should I let my marks discourage me?

  1. Jun 17, 2011 #1

    I'm 16, live in Australia and am senior in high school. I do the highest levels of Mathematics which i can at school, and thoroughly enjoy them! I enjoy them so much infact, that i was considering math as a career.

    Here's my dilemma, after observing my marks i noted that i am hovering around the low A's. That is A-'s. Most of the marks i lose are through numerical errors, my algebra and conceptual knowledge are never called into question. So here's my query:

    Should I take my relatively low A grades as a signifier that even though i enjoy math, its something I'm just not cut out for, or are high school marks completely redundant to your ability to succeed as a mathematician?

    Thanks in advance,

  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 17, 2011 #2
    Hi CoolBeans! :smile:

    Don't worry about it. The concept and the methods are way more important than numerical calculations in mathematics. So just because you're bad at calculating, doesn't mean math isn't for you. As long as you enjoy math and understand most of it, you're fine. And an A- isn't that bad...

    That said, you may want to find out why you're making these mistakes. Maybe you should just practise more? A thing I always did on tests was doublechecking everything and seeing whether my answer even made sense.

    For example, if I want to know the equation of the line between (1,2) and (2,0) and I get x+y=2, then I know I made a mistake because (1,1) doesn't lie on that line. Try to develop such methods of checking your answers!
  4. Jun 17, 2011 #3
    Thanks for the advice. I actually sat another Exam today. The last question required us to optimize the volume of a square based rectangular prism of given surface area. I only after i came home did i realize that when I re-wrote an equation a few lines down( Trying to knock up communication and justification grade) i left a squared off x. A trivial error that lead to having a linear equation rather than a polynomial after differentiation. Ultimately I got the wrong answer as i was left without the root i needed to find the correct one. When I got home and realized my error I almost cried.

    Just a little story i thought that i would share lol :)

    Thanks again for the advice.
  5. Jun 17, 2011 #4


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    (occasional little math errors) are to (understanding math) as (spelling errors) are to (writing great literature)

    I wouldn't worry about it much, CoolBeans. It sounds like you've got a solid understanding of math.
  6. Jun 17, 2011 #5


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    An example of the idea of plausibility checking your answers is thinking about symmetry and limits. So, letting the square go to zero, keeping area constant, volume goes to zero. The only case distinguished by any symmetry is the cube. Thus, your initial guess should be that the cube is the maximum, and you should check very carefully if you find different.
  7. Jun 17, 2011 #6
    I think you're nuts :smile: A- is a great grade! Stay with it!!!
  8. Jun 17, 2011 #7
    Thanks for the replies :D

    You've given me some good food for thought. I probably will keep the option of pursuing a career in mathematics open.
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