1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Why is math so hard?

Tags:
  1. Dec 6, 2016 #1
    I used to like math when I was in high school. Calculus (integration and derivatives) seem intuitive to me and made me understand math so much better.

    Now I'm currently in university majoring in civil engineering taking Calc III and I feel overwhelmed by everything taught in class. No matter how hard I try, I cannot understand things intuitively and everything feels disconnected. I can solve problems given by my professor but I have no clue what I am doing or what the answers even mean.

    Why is math so hard?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 6, 2016 #2
    I dont know, and that is probably part of the problem. :( I still find mathematical induction something I HAVENT been able to understand completely. Calculus 3 is very far away for me -_-
     
  4. Dec 6, 2016 #3

    PeroK

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Can you give an example of the sort of thing you are talking about?
     
  5. Dec 6, 2016 #4
    Sometimes I didn't understand what was really happening in Calculus courses until much later.

    There are harder Calc 1 and 2 sequences that better prepare students for Calc 3, and easier Calc 1 and 2 sequences where students get hit harder in Calc 3. Some students also have a harder time visualizing calculus in 3D.

    Stick with it. Do not despair. Keep working hard. It will come to you.
     
  6. Dec 6, 2016 #5
    We're currently learning about the Cauchy Goursat theorem and complex integration.
     
  7. Dec 6, 2016 #6

    PeroK

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Complex Analysis is not easy, if that is any consolation. It's difficult even to visualise a complex function because it's four-dimensional. If you have a grasp of vector calculus and differential equations then I wouldn't worry.

    I think most people struggle with complex analysis and it will probably take more effort to master.
     
  8. Dec 6, 2016 #7
    I have a question...why do civil engineers need to learn complex analysis? O: its not part of my sylabus (afaik) and i am an EECS student
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2016
  9. Dec 6, 2016 #8

    vela

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Education Advisor

    In Calc 3? That's weird.

    If you want to develop intuition, it might help to see how the math is used in physics. For example, you're probably already familiar with using Ampere's Law to calculate the magnetic field around a straight wire. That's just an application of Stokes' theorem. Personally, reading the Feynman Lectures where he talked about curl and divergence helped me a lot.

    You might be in for a rude awakening. Are you sure you don't have to learn complex analysis eventually? As far as I know, complex analysis is typically part of an EE major.
     
  10. Dec 6, 2016 #9
    The math class is the weight room for the mind.

    Those brain cells need a good workout to get strong for engineering.
     
  11. Dec 6, 2016 #10

    PeroK

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Yes, but you need flexibility as well as strength, so don't forget the stretching exercises!
     
  12. Dec 6, 2016 #11
    Math is about learning how to think, that's the biggest hurdle for most people.
     
  13. Dec 6, 2016 #12
    Yeah.. I have no idea why a Civil Engineer would be learning Cauchy Goursat theorem and complex integrations, I didn't know Civil Engineers took a full calc series. My sister-in-law is a CE and she gets that deer-in-headlights look when I talk about math so I keep it simple.
     
  14. Dec 6, 2016 #13

    FactChecker

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    The failure of the bridge "Gallopin' Gertie" (see ) is one reason why a Civil Engineer might need to understand complex analysis and its application to stability analysis. There are new materials and systems being developed that will make structures more durable and resistant to earthquake damage. Some of them require feedback systems that are studied using complex analysis. Also, analytic functions are used to get irrotational, incompressible approximations of flow.
     
  15. Dec 6, 2016 #14
    If you want intuition on the way complex functions and analysis work, I recommend you find a copy of Visual Complex Analysis by Tristan Needham. You should be able to get a copy through your library, even if you may need to use interlibrary loan.
     
  16. Dec 6, 2016 #15
    Yes we have already learnt a lot about complex numbers and complex sequences and series, their convergence. etc. But not as a standalone module, these theorems were packed together with calculus and algebra. I guess I confused OPs course for pure complex analysis.

    :DDI guess my brain cells arent up to the mark.
     
  17. Dec 6, 2016 #16

    jtbell

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    That might depend on which country we're talking about. I agree, here in the US it would be weird. I've never heard of complex analysis being included in Calculus III, only as a separate course later on. However, we have so many universities here it's possible that someplace does it that way.
     
  18. Dec 6, 2016 #17

    FactChecker

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    EE is full of feedback, stability analysis, control systems, Laplace transforms, etc. that require complex analysis. I don't know any EE majors who do not take complex analysis.
     
  19. Dec 6, 2016 #18
    I think EECS is more like computer engineering, not like a full blown analog EE degree. I have worked with a few of them, they all glaze over when you start describing a switching power supply and waveguides. For more of a challenge go analog EE and a CS degree and toss some digital stuff in there to get a job, that's what I did.
     
  20. Dec 6, 2016 #19

    atyy

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    In engineering, complex variables are mainly a mathematical convenience. It is possible to think of the physics using only multivariable calculus. One example of how complex variables enter is via the Fourier or Laplace transforms, which make linear equations easy to solve.

    Assuming Calc 3 is multivariable - I too found it very hard - till this day I always think of it in terms of the physics of Maxwell's equations to get a feel for things. Different pictures work for different people. Many find fluid flow easier to visualize than electromagnetic fields, but it's the opposite for me.

    It also really helps to know that the determinant has a geometrical meaning as an area (otherwise the Jacobian is incomprehensible).
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2016
  21. Dec 6, 2016 #20

    jtbell

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I agree. My third-year E&M course (Griffiths level, although not using that book) was where I first really started to be comfortable with "div, grad, curl and all that." It also helped to teach that course a few times, many years later.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted



Similar Discussions: Why is math so hard?
  1. Why is Physics so hard? (Replies: 113)

  2. Why is physics so hard? (Replies: 11)

Loading...