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Studying Studying Math without propper foundations

  1. Oct 18, 2009 #1
    I'm 19 years old and I am in first year computer science. I've really fallen in love with the math that we do (discrete math, linear algebra, multivariable calculus) in this program and I'm thinking of switching majors to math or do a double major in math and computer science..

    What I'm worried about is that this interest in math came very suddenly and I never used to really practice math.. I used to do the minimum just to pass the exam. For example I refused to learn long division as a child because I was told in highschool we would be allowed calculators in the exam, so I had to quickly teach myself polynomial long division for calculus (partial fractions) without even knowing how to do it with numbers..

    My question is, if I wasn't always the math-whizz at school is it still possible for me to catch up and major in mathematics, or will it just be too difficult since I haven't mastered the basics?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 18, 2009 #2
    Half way through my sophomore year in high school I was dropped by all but one class since I was never showing up. Boose, girls, and music were my priority. I was constantly getting in fist-fights and was even suspended once. Later on I had to go to a remedial high school for down-and-out kids in order to graduate on time. I graduated with a 2.1 GPA. The highest math I ever took in high school was an "informal" algebra class.

    Then, somehow I scored high enough on the ACT to be immediately accepted into my current university. Fast-forward to today: I am a math major with an extremely strong GPA and I've been the recipient of many academic awards and scholarships.

    What's the point of me typing all this drivel? If there was ever anybody who didn't have the "proper" foundations, it was me. To correct that problem all you must have is time, dedication, discipline, and an intense curiosity in the subject. Then, if you have those four, you'll succeed.
  4. Oct 18, 2009 #3
    I think I have all 4 criteria minus discipline, but I that I can learn.. I've been asking around (friends, family, physicsforums) and everyone has been giving me these positive replies, so I think I'm gonna do it despite my lack of confidence. I have nothing to lose.

    Thanks for advice :)
  5. Oct 18, 2009 #4
    Eh, we all struggle with discipline still. Little lapses don't really hurt too much, and in fact may be necessary to maintain sanity. Every once in awhile you need to blow off your homework and go watch a football game, strum a few chords, cook, fly a kite, etc.

    Just don't do it too much. :smile:
  6. Oct 19, 2009 #5
    It is never too late. As union68 said, there is no such thing as 'lack of foundation' - you can always build your foundations right now.

    I would emphasize that the most important attributes are intense curiosity and discipline. The curiosity will give you the discipline to do the work. When you are struggling with a brutal math proplem, never forget why you are doing it in the first place. The desire to know...
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