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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 4th, 2011, 12:16 PM   #1
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Becoming a Mathematics Master

Hi Forum!

I am new here. I've been lurking around here for a while and am extremely impressed with the mathematical ability of some of the users here.

I want to become that skilled too. I am currently a sophomore chemical engineering student at a decent college. I would like to either double major in math or just switch my major entirely to math. So my first question is: how easy do you think this transition will be? Most of the math posted here looks very foreign to me, even though I have taken calc 1,2,3 and differential equations and these subjects came extremely easy to me.

Regardless of what I do with my major, I really want to start independent studying some math. I've picked up a discrete math book and looked through a few pages and might continue doing this until I understand it. Are there any other areas I should start looking at? And how exactly would you go about eventually working up to becoming as good at math as some of the other people on here? I really enjoy thinking and spend most of my weekends deriving formulas from physics and other subjects (I'm pretty popular lol).

My goal after graduating undergrad would be to go to math grad school and maybe get a phd in the subject. I was convinced not to major in math in undergrad by my parents, but my love for math has always been there. I do not think I would want to go into academia though. What are the job prospects like for an applied math phd?
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May 4th, 2011, 12:57 PM   #2
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Re: Becoming a Mathematics Master

Welcome!

The sooner you switch the easier you'll find it. As a sophomore you're not too far behind your math major peers; if you were a senior you'd have a lot more to make up.

I don't know how hard a double major would be (it depends on the college and your classes so far) but if you can manage it I would strongly recommend it. Flexibility is good -- and having background in other subjects is often useful even when you're just in math. If for some reason the math thing didn't work out it would be even more important, of course. Certainly at least pick up a minor.

At my college it would be doable for a student to get a BA in both engineering and math, though a BS would probably require an extra semester. You'd have to be careful with scheduling, though.
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May 4th, 2011, 01:09 PM   #3
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Re: Becoming a Mathematics Master

How would you go about studying math independently? Should I pick it up and try to do like an hour a day of reading a textbook or should I focus my attention on problems only?

I am currently 19 so would you say its possible to become quite talented before I go on to grad school in math?

Also, I would probably talk an additional year if I did dual BS degrees.
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May 4th, 2011, 08:02 PM   #4
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Re: Becoming a Mathematics Master

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Originally Posted by mathgod
How would you go about studying math independently? Should I pick it up and try to do like an hour a day of reading a textbook or should I focus my attention on problems only?
If you took a class (not what you're talking about, but for comparison) you would spend ~3 hours a week in class and 3-6 hours per week reading the book and answering homework problems, of which maybe a third will be assigned.

If you study independently, you should find a good textbook (obviously this matters a lot more than if you had a teacher), read each chapter and do every problem. This should take a little bit longer than if you were in the class: no time in the classroom but you'll do more problems. If you skip straight to the problems you'll eventually* get to a point where you aren't able to answer the questions, even if you look back at the text. If you just read the text without doing problems you won't get a good understanding, either, just an overview.

1 hour per day over the summer would be the minimum you would need to get the equivalent of 1 semester-long college class. 90 minutes 6 days a week would be better. If possible break it up into two sessions (do some reading, go do something else and let it soak in, then go back and do problems).

* Actually, pretty soon.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mathgod
I am currently 19 so would you say its possible to become quite talented before I go on to grad school in math?
If you have 3-4 years of college left (1-2 out of 5 done) then you could get pretty far, sure.
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May 5th, 2011, 11:41 AM   #5
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Re: Becoming a Mathematics Master

What are the job opportunities for someone with an undergraduate applied math major. I know some go on to work in finance, but are there lots of jobs in other fields for an undergrad math major? I don't think I would be very attracted to working in academia. If I were to get a PhD would I have a hard time finding a job somewhere? Is where I get my doctorate really important?

Still not even sure if I will go this route. Just trying to plan things out.
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May 5th, 2011, 05:30 PM   #6
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Re: Becoming a Mathematics Master

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Originally Posted by mathgod
What are the job opportunities for someone with an undergraduate applied math major. I know some go on to work in finance, but are there lots of jobs in other fields for an undergrad math major?
There aren't really any math jobs open to those with just a bachelor's in math. There are plenty of nonmath jobs (e.g. computer programmer) that are common for those who don't go further with math.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mathgod
I don't think I would be very attracted to working in academia. If I were to get a PhD would I have a hard time finding a job somewhere? Is where I get my doctorate really important?
There are lots of job opportunities for math PhDs. If you're not going into academia, it's not too important where your degree is from. (It matters a bit if you are.)
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May 7th, 2011, 09:11 PM   #7
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Re: Becoming a Mathematics Master

One of the key elements to mastering maths is to have and always maintain the right frame of thinking about maths. For a brilliant note on the study of mathematics surf to:
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