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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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January 9th, 2012, 03:44 PM   #1
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Confused

Hello!

I find studying math in university (Which is where I study, but not in the department of mathematics) very boring and slow because of that. I cant keep myself interested on just doing and passing tests. I don't mean to bash university, but I don't think the way of learning there is very good (at least for me). You learn to know certain things but not to understand anything. Its a bit complicated and I cant find all the words to describe everything, at least for now that I have to go sleep.

When I study and investigate math by myself I find it very fascinating, great fun and I like to do it a lot. I try to find new things and explore in the world of math. Also I feel I have got forward quite a bit in my "own studies and investigations".

So the problem is that I have deep passion towards mathematics and I actually wish to become some kind of math researcher. Same time I just cant get along on the normal studies in the university and go forward there as well. All I would want to do is study math. Any ideas what to do?
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January 9th, 2012, 04:33 PM   #2
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Re: Confused

Start answering questions (the ones that interest you) here on the forum! As for the university, I suggest you just try and get through it as best you can; if you want to become some kind of research mathematician, you will probably need some kind of degree. I've had similar experiences (I am a student) with classes, but I just try to pay as much attention as I can and remember that it is all for a greater good - getting a math degree and the level of knowledge that goes with it!
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January 9th, 2012, 09:05 PM   #3
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Re: Confused

Quote:
You learn to know certain things but not to understand anything.
I've been complaining about this for years. Just ask anyone who knows me. I see you're not in the U.S., but here the entire school system is like this, right from elementary school. (Yes, there's some good schools that are exceptions, so I mean just in general.) And it did not used to be true. It seems the more the system does to try to fix themselves, the more they get screwed up. (Meaning they have no clue at all.)

I'd hate to see you just trudge through all your math courses like this and have to do all the fun stuff outside of class. Have you spoken to anyone? Are you allowed to study independently? Are the classes outside the math department different? I mean, do you have math classes that are in another department that are taught differently? (That's the only interpretation I can make of your comment.) If so, can you take them within the math department?

Are these still basic level classes? Sometimes the basic stuff can be boring if it's something you are good at -- cause the general population has to take them. And then when you get to higher level classes within your major, they become more interesting (and perhaps have better instructors). So it may just be a matter of dealing with it until you get to a higher level. After all, all college experiences include classes we dislike or that bore us.
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January 9th, 2012, 11:05 PM   #4
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Re: Confused

The best way to learn is to be shown examples. Show me how to do the problem...then change the numbers and see if i can get the result. That would be teaching.

Unfortunately, professors (and tutors) are too lazy to work examples for the student.

Unfortunately, most books on the level of abstract algebra and above demand too much from the reader, solutions manuals with fully worked out solutions are not easily available to the learner, who struggles to comprehend methods that are 'trivial' to the experts.

This has been my experience: professors don't know how to teach learners and mathematicians don't know how to write books for non-experts. Solutions are closely gaurded, and many times on an exam the student is asked unfair questions only experts understand.

The goal of universities seems to be...find geniuses and challenge them, not teach mathematics. They mislead the public, who go there under the impression that knowledge will be disseminated fairly

Universities have gotten very fat over the years and are run more like businesses instead of learning institutions.

The intelligence of the student means nothing to them, if the students do well, the professors make the tests harder, if the students do poorly, they 'curve' the grading. This clearly shows where the universities true interests lie, to conserve and perpetuate a competitive nature among students whose parents are not on the board of directors.

I apologize for all the negativity, but that's how i see it.

Here's one thing that you can do, try to find books that are easy for you to understand. Many Barnes & Noble have excellent math books, and cafe's. They let you take the book into the cafe, you drink your beverage and read the book, if you like it you buy it. I have bought many books from them in this way, they are better than your local library.

Your local library is also a good place to check out books.

When you get stuck you can use the internet and math forums for help, there are many people out there happy to provide assistance.

One final recommendation...Schaums Outlines...hundreds of fully worked out examples. You can find many at your local Barnes & Noble.
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January 10th, 2012, 06:43 AM   #5
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Re: Confused

Quote:
Originally Posted by agentredlum
This has been my experience: professors don't know how to teach learners and mathematicians don't know how to write books for non-experts. Solutions are closely gaurded, and many times on an exam the student is asked unfair questions only experts understand.
I think that too many people go to college; it would be better if a number of those who have trouble would just drop out. Math is hard.

It's true that many math books are written poorly -- it's actually very hard to make them accessible. But the point stands regardless.

Quote:
Originally Posted by agentredlum
Unfortunately, professors (and tutors) are too lazy to work examples for the student.
More common, I think, is that the examples that are worked are too hygenic -- the solution is worked out ahead of time and it doesn't contain any of the difficulties students are likely to encounter as they attack the problem more haphazardly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by agentredlum
Here's one thing that you can do, try to find books that are easy for you to understand. Many Barnes & Noble have excellent math books, and cafe's. They let you take the book into the cafe, you drink your beverage and read the book, if you like it you buy it. I have bought many books from them in this way, they are better than your local library.

Your local library is also a good place to check out books.
It's pretty rare that you can find useful, college-level resources at a public library or bookstore. Popular materials and high-school math (through calc) are common, but when was the last time you saw Galois theory at B&N?
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January 10th, 2012, 07:48 AM   #6
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Re: Confused

Thank you for all the replies!

You all made good points. I was thinking if there was any alternative way of studying math and later on getting some kind of income from it. But of course you must have degree anyways. I think I just have to move my ass to the department of mathematics and move forward there. Its the only way.

Quote:
I'd hate to see you just trudge through all your math courses like this and have to do all the fun stuff outside of class. Have you spoken to anyone? Are you allowed to study independently? Are the classes outside the math department different? I mean, do you have math classes that are in another department that are taught differently? (That's the only interpretation I can make of your comment.) If so, can you take them within the math department?
I hardly go to the classes at all. I study to the tests from home. IF I study..The things they teach are not hard, but its just very hard for me to prepare for tests. I get bored and frustrated and cant go on. Its hard for me to just memorize and read certain things for tests..I think that's what the problem is fundamentally. I feel I'm very much different learner than what people usually are. Anyways I have to find out a way to move my ass forward when I get to the department of mathematics. I hope it will work.
At the moment I'm actually studying math in a university that is 100% for master of science so I would need to change university as well, in order to get to the math department.

I like to use my imagination a lot, trying to find out new things of things I have just learned, and then going even further from there, it could be thought as a bit crazy.
My dream is that I could study and investigate math by myself as a hermit and be able to feed myself same time, hehe. If I were rich I wouldn't have any problem. I would continue as I have to this day, but since I'm not rich the future doesn't look so bright. Of course money solves problems of almost all people hehe.

I hope I made myself a bit more clear, but please feel free to make sharp and even offensive questions and comments. I don't mind you being offensive at all. It could be helpful. I don't feel I have opened or revealed everything necessary regarding this issue to you. I hope to get some clarity on my mind from this thread.
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January 10th, 2012, 08:12 AM   #7
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Re: Confused

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ballser
I feel I'm very much different learner than what people usually are.
Most people feel that way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ballser
I hardly go to the classes at all. I study to the tests from home. IF I study..The things they teach are not hard, but its just very hard for me to prepare for tests.
There may be connection between these points.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ballser
I like to use my imagination a lot, trying to find out new things of things I have just learned, and then going even further from there, it could be thought as a bit crazy.
Imagination and intuition are very important in math. It's to your benefit if you possess these things.
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January 10th, 2012, 09:33 AM   #8
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Re: Confused

Quote:
Ballser wrote:
I feel I'm very much different learner than what people usually are.


Most people feel that way.
Do they? I have talked with many of my friends and other people who have studied same and different things as me. Sure lot of people say that the teaching could be better or they criticize by saying that they just study to pass the test and then they will later forget what they learned (which is not bad since you can now easily return back to the subject). They are not interested so much of the bigger picture. Just moving on and "knowing" the subjects not "understanding". They don't know or care where the things are derivated from, why some of the things are as they are, "what could you try to do with this" or many other things that come on mind. What is generally taught: "This is A, that is B. You do **** and you get E." Students learning: "This is A, that is B. I do **** and I get E. Now I know this thing." I don't say that's bad. Particularly if you just need math as a tool for applications of it.

Quote:
Ballser wrote:
I hardly go to the classes at all. I study to the tests from home. IF I study..The things they teach are not hard, but its just very hard for me to prepare for tests.


There may be connection between these points.

Ballser wrote:
I like to use my imagination a lot, trying to find out new things of things I have just learned, and then going even further from there, it could be thought as a bit crazy.


Imagination and intuition are very important in math. It's to your benefit if you possess these things.
I used to go classes, but I couldn't stand it any longer. You might think that I'm just lazy since I wont study? I have tried and given a lot of effort in order to study the things what they teach in courses, but it is very hard. It simply makes my head explode when I try to prepare for a test where they ask certain A B things as I described above. I just cant keep myself interested its so dull and I feel it as being useless, "not teaching me wisdom". That's is why I get frustrated.

Now the reason why I say that I feel myself being a very different learner is because I study and learn by exploring and using imagination. If someone says me "This is that and that is this. Remember it in the exam." I will not be using my imagination or exploring anything and I will be extremely bored compared to the other way I study, learn and investigate math.
I have studied lot of math by myself (As I have mentioned) that is not at this moment very relative to the math I have studied in the university. So I just got this thought that maybe I will easily pass exams in the math courses when my own studies happen to be more of those in the exams. Then I would have done it "my way".
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January 10th, 2012, 09:46 AM   #9
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Re: Confused

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ballser
Quote:
Ballser wrote:
I feel I'm very much different learner than what people usually are.


Most people feel that way.
Do they?
Yes, absolutely.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ballser
Students learning: "This is A, that is B.
That style of learning won't work for university-level math (though it's pretty successful for most of high-school math), unless perhaps for "math for engineers" or the like. Everyone has to learn and think as you describe beyond about their freshman year in college, if not sooner.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ballser
I used to go classes, but I couldn't stand it any longer. You might think that I'm just lazy since I wont study? I have tried and given a lot of effort in order to study the things what they teach in courses, but it is very hard.
Yes, it is hard. In particular, it's much harder than the math that came before it. You're taught more things, and much faster. Further, they're more abstract so the intuition needs to be developed -- for earlier math you could usually get away with your preexisting intuition.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ballser
I just cant keep myself interested its so dull and I feel it as being useless, "not teaching me wisdom".
That happens. In the end it is your problem, by which I mean specific to you: for some reason the material seems dull to you, but what needs to be done to make the material less dull will vary wildly from person to person. For me, number fields seemed like definitions propagated for no reason until I saw their application to number theory. But that might not work for you. Perhaps you would have found number fields exciting on their own, but found number theory to be a chore until something hit you about it, but I couldn't guess what that would be.

You can deal with this by finding something that makes the material more relevant to you (this will be personal, what works for me wouldn't be likely to work for you), by 'gritting your teeth' and learning it anyway (which works, but is not conducive to building intuition), or by dropping the class and taking one that you find more appealing. Of course if it's a key required class like real analysis this might require a change of major!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ballser
Now the reason why I say that I feel myself being a very different learner is because I study and learn by exploring and using imagination.
This describes approximately 100% of math majors.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ballser
If someone says me "This is that and that is this. Remember it in the exam." I will not be using my imagination or exploring anything and I will be extremely bored compared to the other way I study, learn and investigate math.
Yes, and you shouldn't learn that way -- it's the 'high-school method' and is unlikely to succeed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ballser
I have studied lot of math by myself (As I have mentioned) that is not at this moment very relative to the math I have studied in the university.
Like what? And what are you taking now? That might help put some of this in perspective.
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January 10th, 2012, 12:05 PM   #10
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Re: Confused

Thank you for your reply again.
Quote:
Ballser wrote:
Ballser wrote:
I feel I'm very much different learner than what people usually are.


Most people feel that way.


Do they?


Yes, absolutely.
With all honesty, I haven't found people who feel the same way as I (as I described in the earlier reply more about. So I don't know why you know that way.
Quote:
Ballser wrote:
Students learning: "This is A, that is B.


That style of learning won't work for university-level math (though it's pretty successful for most of high-school math), unless perhaps for "math for engineers" or the like. Everyone has to learn and think as you describe beyond about their freshman year in college, if not sooner.
That is exactly how it is taught and thought about in my uni. Its the same as far as I know even after freshman year. But now I am relieved to know from your words that maybe its at least a bit different in the math department?
Quote:
Ballser wrote:
I used to go classes, but I couldn't stand it any longer. You might think that I'm just lazy since I wont study? I have tried and given a lot of effort in order to study the things what they teach in courses, but it is very hard.


Yes, it is hard. In particular, it's much harder than the math that came before it. You're taught more things, and much faster. Further, they're more abstract so the intuition needs to be developed -- for earlier math you could usually get away with your preexisting intuition.
I'm not sure if you understood right or if I made it understandable, but the subject itself is not hard for me. Its just that I cant get my time spend on it or, not at least effectively. It is well known that the speed is faster and it needs new kind of intuition, but maybe because of the speed it can be even more the kind of learning which I talked about earlier, the A B thing, hehe.
Quote:
Ballser wrote:
Now the reason why I say that I feel myself being a very different learner is because I study and learn by exploring and using imagination.


This describes approximately 100% of math majors.
That is also relieving to know, but also makes me doubt if you understand exactly what I mean. Just because you use imagination (which is of course needed) to solve lessons in your course doesn't mean what I mean. There is no imagination or exploration (of which I mean) involved if you just copy to your head what is taught in the course would it be more sophisticated or less narrow and more explaining. What I mean is that you take paper and pen and just start to think and wonder how to do different kind of things and have books and the computer to help you. You come up with different kind of stuff and go on. That is exploring with imagination. I don't happen know anyone who would do this and people have been a bit "WTF" when I tell them about my own "projects".

Quote:
If someone says me "This is that and that is this. Remember it in the exam." I will not be using my imagination or exploring anything and I will be extremely bored compared to the other way I study, learn and investigate math.


Yes, and you shouldn't learn that way -- it's the 'high-school method' and is unlikely to succeed.
What do you think is the right way to learn?

Quote:
Ballser wrote:
I have studied lot of math by myself (As I have mentioned) that is not at this moment very relative to the math I have studied in the university.


Like what? And what are you taking now? That might help put some of this in perspective.
Well, quite a lot of different kind of stuff which I don't feel comfortable to talk about. As a small example I have found interesting things regarding the Harmonic number.
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