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Switching Major from Physics to Math

  1. Mar 9, 2013 #1
    I'm in the middle of physics 2, and I'm taking calculus 2 at the same time. I thought I'd find physics interesting like used to in high school, but I find myself kinda bored and not really caring anymore. I love doing math, and I am quite good at it. I have gotten 100 percent on my last two calculus 2 exams, so I am probably just going to switch from physics to applied mathematics. My adviser is really wanting me to move ahead with physics 3. She says it's more mathematical, and I might change my mind about physics. She says either way a physics minor looks good with a math degree. Is physics 3 that much more mathematical than physics 2? Either way if I am still this bored with physics during physics 3, I'd really rather not get a physics minor. Are there other minors that look good with a math major?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 9, 2013 #2
    Comp Sci is a popular choice.
  4. Mar 9, 2013 #3
    I was in a similar position but hang in there and your physics classes will catch up to the math. I'm not sure what physics 3 exactly entails but if its part of the intro physics sequence that engineers take, then it probably won't be much better. After physics 2 we take modern physics.. its MUCH different than the intro sequence. It is more thorough and satisfying. We do a lot more derivations and the pace is greatly decreased. More focus is placed on being able to use mathematical tools from calculus to derive the equations. Also, more time is spent on the building up of physical theories and the experiments used to verify these theories.
  5. Mar 9, 2013 #4
    It depends on your University. Physics 3 in my university is Modern Physics, which is much more mathematical based than 1 & 2. I'd say stick in there and take physics 3, I'm sure you'll be much more satisfied with it than you were with physics 1 & 2. If you're still not satisfied with physics 3, than change your minor.
  6. Mar 9, 2013 #5
    Your physics classes will become much more mathematical but never as much so as a pure math degree.

    A few things to consider however. Even in applied math the math you will be doing while working towards a math degree is very different than what is being done in calculus (most likely, if your course is proof base this may be off).

    Pure math is a lot of fun though. Take a real proof based course and see how you like it.
  7. Mar 9, 2013 #6


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    I'm not sure what an undergrad degree in applied mathematics looks like - presumably you still must take the standard proof based intro real analysis, upper division linear algebra, abstract algebra, etc. I completely agree with Joriss: take a proof based math course and see how you like it, since it will be much more like the upper division math courses than your calculus courses are. In fact, I think it is wise to stay on the right track for both majors, and postpone the decision until as late as is reasonable. You are probably still a Freshman? That is way too early to lock yourself out of either major by failing to take a course. Neither physics nor math upper division courses are very similar to freshman courses.

    To get a feel for upper division physics, Prof. Fitzpatrick at UT Austin posts upper division undergrad books he wrote for the courses he teaches:

    to see some the upper division equivalent of calc 2 and 3, see for example teh notes from prof. Kuttler at BYU:

  8. Mar 9, 2013 #7


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    My advice, pick up Spivak's Calculus at a library, read the first chapter, if you find the information extremely boring and the problems really pointless, then mathematics may not be the best choice. If, on the other hand, you think it's really cool how it all builds and you can't wait to do more, then yeah, math might be your thing,

    Nevertheless, I do encourage you to pick up a second major in Physics or Computer Science. Math is a highly competitive field filled with 16 yr old micromass. It's always a smart thing to diversify yourself and make yourself more than a one-trick pony.
  9. Mar 15, 2013 #8
    In my university physics 3 is special relativity among other things related to special relativity. My calc teacher makes a lot of time for theory even though it is only calculus 2, and I do enjoy it. She has told me she would like me to be a math major. I am still open to both majors though.
  10. Mar 15, 2013 #9
    Also, I think my physics professor may be the issue. They way he teaches works with a small percent of the class. Everyone else is confused.
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