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Academic Guidance Academic Guidance - Academic guidance for those pursuing a college degree... what college? Grad school? PhD help?


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May 5th, 2010, 11:45 AM   #1
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Returning to college -- where to start?

Hi,

I'm reentering undergraduate college for the first time in six years. One of my interests is math. I got a score of 3 on AP Calculus AB a long time ago. I took the Calculus I-III sequence in my last college stint. Though I did OK in them, I only did as much as I needed to get by -- and that was at an easy school with low expectations.

I've also done a semester of discrete math and a semester of group theory at an elite school's summer program. I did well in discrete and just passably in group (although my proofs were always highly praised) and linear algebra.

Throughout it all, I wish I had applied myself more, because I know I'm capable of excellent work. Now that I am returning to school, I have the opportunity to take my time and do it right. I have been trying some practice tests in calculus and linear algebra; and whether it's because I'm rusty or because I never studied hard, I am finding I remember relatively little.

So I'm wondering where I should resume my math work when I return to college this summer. This college has an honors calculus sequence that ought to be very rigorous, but I wonder if I'd be bored in it (and not particularly pleased to be the only one older than 19). Though my foundation will definitely be great if I do it, is it worth all the time and money when I already have the credits? (I know that to some extent I'm the only one who can answer that question.)

On the other hand, I could start with more advanced stuff like number theory or differential equations, refreshing myself on the older material as needed. But will I just get overwhelmed and lost, just as I was in the final lessons of the group theory course I took?

Any advice?
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May 5th, 2010, 01:51 PM   #2
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Re: Returning to college -- where to start?

Quote:
Originally Posted by noah++
I have been trying some practice tests in calculus and linear algebra; and whether it's because I'm rusty or because I never studied hard, I am finding I remember relatively little.
This is very ordinary, even for people who did learn the material well. The difference is that, having learned it before, it should be much easier for you to learn it than the other students.

Quote:
Originally Posted by noah++
So I'm wondering where I should resume my math work when I return to college this summer. This college has an honors calculus sequence that ought to be very rigorous, but I wonder if I'd be bored in it (and not particularly pleased to be the only one older than 19). Though my foundation will definitely be great if I do it, is it worth all the time and money when I already have the credits? (I know that to some extent I'm the only one who can answer that question.)
Honestly, I'd say, "not worth your time". Start reviewing calculus material (online or with your old books) now, and start with a higher-level course. Maybe you could re-take Calc III as a refresher, or maybe just dive into differential equations if you're confident. Number theory would offer an alternate approach: you won't need to know so much calculus for it but the class may be harder than other alternatives. (But if you took discrete math and group theory before, even if you don't remember that much, you'll have an edge. Group theory, in particular, relates strongly to number theory, so some things you'll see in number theory you'll recognize as being reflective of general principles that you don't fully remember anymore.)
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