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Math Help - A little down over my age and thus far achievements in math

  1. #1
    Senior Member Paze's Avatar
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    A little down over my age and thus far achievements in math

    Hi.

    I'm a 22 year old male with a new-found love for math. It started this summer when I decided to go back to school and I was so afraid of failing math yet again, that I learned math for 2 months straight. I didn't realize then but I had taught myself a lot of which the school would teach up till graduation (from scratch, e.g. 1+1).

    So I will be doing very little in math class until I enroll into a university (where I plan on studying mathematics).

    Now at first I thought I was really good at math...But then came calculus (self teaching). I realized I had holes all over my mathematics knowledge. I am asked to derive this and that and I have to go back and learn what ln is and how it's related to e^x. Sometimes I even realize algebraic methods that I did not realize could be utilized. So I'll be learning calculus but I don't understand it in the same way that I understand the rest of math. I feel like I can speak math almost fluently below calculus as I see the logic in everything. In calculus I am having a hard time seeing the logic since the expressions become very large and it takes a long time for them to seep in for me.

    I really want to be good at math. I mean like REALLY good at math. I want to work exciting jobs and solve exciting problems, however when you read about mathematicians they all seem to have an IQ of 130+ and loved math since birth. I hated math until I was 22!

    Can anyone cheer me up with a story of a mathematician who didn't do math since birth? Anyone else struggled with calculus but then understood it? Is the learning curve only going to get slower from now on or is this a hard patch for everyone?
    Any motivation is really appreciated. Thanks!
    Last edited by Paze; February 13th 2013 at 09:36 PM.
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  2. #2
    Junior Member astartleddeer's Avatar
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    Re: A little down over my age and thus far achievements in math

    I didn't pick up a maths book until I was 21. I'm 24 now, and I've continued like this ever since. I'm often haunted by the thought of "late-starter" and the question, "If I started as early as 3, how much would I know today?" I'll never be first-class but I feel confident to say I'm above average.

    When you refer to calculus, I'll make the assumption it's single-variable calculus. I don't find it too difficult. I can make it hard on myself at times. The procedure of jumping from a Riemann sum straight to a definite integral so as to compute the area under the curve annoyed me (especially because it was the fundamental theorem of calculus!) in that authors can get lazy with their proof.

    Have you considered MIT open courseware on YouTube? It's really clear and concise. David Jerrison is one of my favourite modern mathematicians.
    Last edited by astartleddeer; February 14th 2013 at 08:22 AM.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member Paze's Avatar
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    Re: A little down over my age and thus far achievements in math

    Yea, it's single variable calculus. It makes sense but it's not as clear as the rest of mathematics for me. I struggled with the basics of math for about 1 month but after that I could learn everything fluently. It seems single variable calculus is a bit different or maybe I am missing some fundamental math knowledge for it.

    I'm following the MIT courses at the moment but I take a while to learn each lecture. I have to research a lot on the side.
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    Junior Member astartleddeer's Avatar
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    Re: A little down over my age and thus far achievements in math

    I was the same. These were classic errors of mine:  (a+b)^2 \neq a^2 + b^2 and  a = \frac{b}{c+d} \neq \frac{a}{b} = \frac {1}{\frac{c}{b} + \frac{d}{b}}

    If I'm honest I see lectures as more of a "gap-filler."

    Then it sounds like you need to post for help here at MHF! As defeating as it sounds, you're left with no choice at times.
    Last edited by astartleddeer; February 14th 2013 at 11:36 AM.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Paze's Avatar
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    Re: A little down over my age and thus far achievements in math

    How far have you come in Math so far?
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  6. #6
    Junior Member astartleddeer's Avatar
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    Re: A little down over my age and thus far achievements in math

    Erm, not far.

    I started off with Scaums Outlines to begin with. Algebra, Trig' , Geometry, etctera. Front to back. Some problems would take me up to 10 hours to figure out. It paid off though. Another thing about these books is the units are, generally, imperial. So it pulled me backwards through the units from first principles.

    Then came elementary newtonian mechanics. After I was reading a pocket sized book on non-euclid geometry which made me giggle like you wouldn't believe. Now it's single variable calculus. That's about it really.

    If I spend too much time in the maths books it gets me in to trouble with deadlines for college paperwork so my maths has quiten down a bit at the moment. I just fall asleep in bed watching MIT open courseware on my TV. Lately I've just been focused on building up a huge book collection and trying to figure out what areas link to other areas. All of my student loan goes on maths books.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member Paze's Avatar
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    Re: A little down over my age and thus far achievements in math

    What are you studying if not math since you seem to enjoy math so much?
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    Senior Member jakncoke's Avatar
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    Re: A little down over my age and thus far achievements in math

    I started to take more interest in math when i was about 19 (roughly sophmore yr of college) when i was first introduced to the notion of proving things in an elementry proof class (talked about sets, equivalence classes, and stuff). I also started myself from scratch (yes, i asked my self what it means to add, subtract, what fractions are, ) All mathematicians had only one thing in common (not age, background,all the great ethnicity ...),they only had their love for math as a commonality. It's a different thing to say you love something than to love something. Most people who say they love math, only just like math, to be great at math or anything you have to love it, and to be honest i don't think its something you can make youself do (love something), you might be able to make yourself like something but to love something you have be born.

    You might never be great (few of us will ever be) but you can be certain you can be good. Just learn for its own sake, don't beat yourself or judge yourself. To be good at math, just do math. simple as pie right?
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  9. #9
    Junior Member astartleddeer's Avatar
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    Re: A little down over my age and thus far achievements in math

    Quote Originally Posted by Paze View Post
    What are you studying if not math since you seem to enjoy math so much?
    I'm an electrical engineer student. I'm obsessed with electromagnetism but I lack the mathematical background to research this area at an intricate level. So here I am.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Paze's Avatar
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    Re: A little down over my age and thus far achievements in math

    Quote Originally Posted by astartleddeer View Post
    I'm an electrical engineer student. I'm obsessed with electromagnetism but I lack the mathematical background to research this area at an intricate level. So here I am.
    So is math the hardest part of engineering?
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    Junior Member astartleddeer's Avatar
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    Re: A little down over my age and thus far achievements in math

    Quote Originally Posted by Paze View Post
    So is math the hardest part of engineering?
    From my experience, not really. I'm not at University so it depends how advanced the engineering gets. My application was declined the first time round because I haven't been examined in maths. I've taken glimpses at their online semester sheets and it doesn't look anything special to me to be honest. In my head I'm like, "You refused my application for the maths you deliver. Pffft, it's the same maths all over again! Do me favour."

    So yeah, now I'm I've been sitting exams as a private candidate at some high-school down my road. The next batch aren't until June. It's 3 at a time, so I would have sat 6 exams all together. My college doesn't take on private candidates. They would want you to pay for tuition fees and attend lectures and so on. I don't have the time or the money to do that, it would set me back another couple of years if I did. So I've decided to sit a whole 2 years worth of exams in several months alongside a full-time engineering course as a private candidate at some high school.
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    Re: A little down over my age and thus far achievements in math

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  13. #13
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    Re: A little down over my age and thus far achievements in math

    When I took a calculus course last year I thought it was hard, mostly because I didn't have an intuitive understanding of it. I kept asking myself: Why is the formula written like this? How come this equals that?

    Not that long ago I reviewed a textbook on it and I understood it much more easily, because it gave geometric definitions of the derivative and integral. Now I feel like I can tackle the rest of calculus knowing that I can visually picture what I'm doing.
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