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Study like a rockstar = Math degree?

  1. Jan 5, 2012 #1
    Can someone that is clearly not smart enough to become a mathematician, study their *** off and become one anyway?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 5, 2012 #2
    Depending on the university I'm sure you could probably get through the courses and get a degree. However, at least for me, I think there's a certain point where no matter how much I study certain principles of mathematics I just won't be able to fully grasp them. I haven't attempted those things, but I think just knowing myself and my abilities, some things are just too abstract and complicated for me to understand (in just pure mathematics at least)
  4. Jan 5, 2012 #3
    Thank you for your response. That's what I was afraid of.

    I love math, but it intimidates me, so I over study. Maybe that is giving me a false sense of hope. Am I setting myself up for disappointment? I just wanted opinions from people who have traveled down this road already. Despite all this negativity, I have to try because it makes me happy.

    I work as a math tutor and I get perfect grade. I'm good at computation, but what is going to happen after I finish Cal III and Linear Algebra this semester? What's next? I am going to take logic and I am reading a book about mathematical proofs. So yet again, I am trying to over study lol
  5. Jan 5, 2012 #4
  6. Jan 5, 2012 #5
    I have never heard of Terrence Tao before. Thank you for the link.

    No supernatural abilities required lol... that's good new :)
  7. Jan 5, 2012 #6
    I haven't gone farther than Calc 3/Diff eq and Numerical Methods in my studies (I'm in my last semester of mechanical engineering) so I don't know for sure what lies ahead or if I could continue down the path of pure mathematics, but you seem to have a very strong desire for learning as much as you can about math. For me, I lost that desire when I started getting introduced to some of the complex things, which was a bummer lol. If math truly excites you and you enjoy working on a problem/learning new things then I have no doubt you will be successful if that's the path you choose. Personally I love being challenged by math, engineering, and other sciences, but I reached a point where I was content with what I had learned and didn't feel like needed to know more (in terms of math based stuff. Like although it would be cool to understand topology and those branches of math, but I know I just wouldn't have the drive or time to really learn that material). If you want the learn more then by all means go for it.
  8. Jan 5, 2012 #7
    I believe you can. What matters is that you know the material. How long it took you to master the material is irrelevant.
  9. Jan 5, 2012 #8
    That's not a particularly helpful statement. If you are part of a class at a university, the time it takes to master, learn, barely grasp a subject is all that matters. If you can't learn the material in the time between exams then that's kind of a problem.
  10. Jan 5, 2012 #9
    I am an engineer not a mathematician. However, in my experience those people with insufficient abilities to succeed in technical fields also end up losing their interest in it eventually. I have never met someone with (truly poor ability) + (high interest that is sustained over time) among my former classmates in engineering. What I have seen is (average ability) + (high interest that is sustained over time) + (excellent work ethic) = SUCCESS!

    If you take challenging math classes and do well in them... why worry about your "ability"? If you don't do so well, even though you have studied very hard and been very motivated and interested, that is the point where you can start to consider if the field is just not right for you.
  11. Jan 5, 2012 #10
    Smartness has so much more to do with your interest level and desire than anything else. If you really really really want to turn coffee into theorems, I suspect a significant fraction of people could theoretically do it. But attitudes like yours will pretty much destroy your chances.
  12. Jan 5, 2012 #11
    Angry Citizen, you're absolutely right. I need an attitude adjustment. I will reach my goal, and I'm going to enjoy the journey too.
  13. Jan 5, 2012 #12
    I am trying to see if this is true using myself as a test subject! I will post in this thread 10 years from now with an update. ;)

  14. Jan 6, 2012 #13
    Well, there's more to it than just how hard you work or your intelligence. False dichotomy. You also have to work smarter, not just harder.

    I'm convinced that a lot of the ingredients of my thought processes that have made me reasonably successful in math are present in just about anyone. Maybe not enough of the ingredients for anyone to be able to do it. I don't know. But it's partly a matter of how you study, rather than having innate abilities.

    My own path to figuring out the best way to learn was long and convoluted, so it is not easy to communicate. I still don't know what the best way is for sure, and the answer to that question is different for everyone, although there are some general principles that I think everyone can take advantage of.

    So, I don't know to what extent doing math depends on ability and to what extent it depends on working hard and working in a smart way. It's very hard to tell the difference between innate ability and just having a better way of doing something that someone else could use if they were only aware of it. Unless you can do a deep investigation of how people are thinking, it's practically indistinguishable.

    Based on my experience doing research, I would say hard work is probably more important than intelligence. There's just so much work that has to be done in order to do the job. So, if you don't work hard enough, it's seems like a bigger problem than not being smart enough. If you're smart, but don't work hard, you can't get anything done. If you are not smart, but work hard, you might not get the most high quality work done, but at least you'll get something done.

    I suppose the distinction between work and intelligence is that work is something you can choose to do. But getting yourself to work hard is also a sort of talent, I think. One of my problems is that I find it hard to concentrate and focus on things. So, I can work for 4 hours easily, but the question is what kind of quality work am I going to do. Maybe I will get distracted and think about something else or just not proceed with enough enthusiasm or confidence. So, it's not just a question of deciding you are going to work harder. That's easier said that done. The trick is to be really interested in what you are doing.
  15. Jan 6, 2012 #14
    I would suggest taking caffeine pills and then you could get by on only a couple of hours of sleep and study a lot. Generally yes. Most undergraduate courses that are only 3 credits long only meet 3 hours a weeks every week every semester. Most semesters are just about 4 months long so your not really looking at much study.
  16. Jan 7, 2012 #15


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    Homework Helper

    Bad advice.
  17. Jan 7, 2012 #16
    Very bad advice. You mentioned in another post that you studied until your eyes were red. You know that such a behaviour is very unhealthy, right??

    Furthermore, you'll probably burn out in a couple of years from studying so much.
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