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Should I take a math major honors multi-variable calculus or regular honors?

nothing4menothing4me Registered User Posts: 653 Member
edited June 2011 in Engineering Majors
I am going to be a second-year aerospace engineering student and I did a really good job in Calculus I so I got invited to take Calculus II honors. I did great in there too (In both classes I received As).

I like Math and find it enjoyable. However, I never did 'real math' as in I never dealt with any proofs and such. Just applications (I guess it's more "practical"). The previous two calculus classes were specifically made for engineers/science majors.

Now, I have two options for multi-variable calculus:
Math 251H - Multivariable Calculus (Honors)
Math 291 - Honors Calculus III

According to the school's website:
251 vs. 251H vs. 291.
Math 251 continues the sequence begun with Math 151-152, usually with the same textbook and at the same level of rigor. The honors sections labeled 251H of Math 251 are (in general) intended for honors students in disciplines other than mathematics and are “more demanding versions of the same course.” By contrast, Math 291 is deliberately intended as a course in honors mathematics for students whose primary interest in the course is the mathematics it contains. The textbook may not be that used in other calculus courses, and the choice of course material is at the instructor's discretion to a greater extent than in other lower-division courses. Theorems may be proved in class and required on examinations, and “many variables” may mean n variables, not just 2 or 3.

I talked to my Calculus I professor (who is extremely knowledgeable and somewhat world-known in the math world) and she said:
I never understood really what was the purpose of teaching a series like 151 (Calc 1) and the likes. There is no real science there, at any level, just formulas and rules for solving problems nobody knows where they come from.
I think it is a waste of students' time. If I was a student here in this system, I would have absolutely hated it and would never go into math!

Now, I would ask the Calc III instructor for some advice, but they haven't announced him/her yet. In the meanwhile, can I please have some of your opinions? I would really appreciate it!
Post edited by nothing4me on

Replies to: Should I take a math major honors multi-variable calculus or regular honors?

  • cosmicfishcosmicfish Registered User Posts: 4,273 Senior Member
    I think it depends a lot on what you want to do with the rest of your education. From the look of the courses, 291 will be a better preparation for additional future math courses (including graduate engineering courses), but if you don't pursue some more mathematically-intensive options you would be squandering any advantage of the course, and I would think that 291 represents more of a risk to your GPA. So think about what you want to do, and take that course.
  • viciouspoultryviciouspoultry Registered User Posts: 837 Member
    My guess is the math version (291) will require you to use proofs and think on a more fundamental level rather than process level like the math classes you are used to. I would say if you dont know how to do proof by contradiction, contrapostive, or induction you probably will be lost fairly quickly. I could be wrong and my best advice is talk to the calc III prof if possible or a math adviser.

    Additionally see if you can register for both and drop one once you get an idea of what you are in for
  • jwxiejwxie Registered User Posts: 1,479 Senior Member
    I would rather take the regular class. What is the point? Unless you are more a mathematic guy (say, computer science, computer engineering [because they studied discrete mathematics like CS students do], or applied math), there is almost no point of having proofs. They are nice to know, and can benefit you. God knows. But I would abstain from anything that can turn your GPA down terribly.
  • nothing4menothing4me Registered User Posts: 653 Member
    You guys have great points... I don't want to risk my GPA and thinking on a fundamental level while I actually want to work on a practical level isn't beneficial for me. I think I will just go with the regular course. I'll talk to the Calc III professor when he's assigned for extra information.

    Thank you all!
  • chaoswithinthedchaoswithinthed Registered User Posts: 350 Member
    You go to A&M don't you? Haha. I know those course numbers. Cal 3 is easy. I got high B's in Cal 1 and Cal 2, and rocked Cal 3 all the way. You use the same book, which is awesome IMHO. I think you would find the switch from 151 and 152 to 291 to be a shock. 251 is a continuation of 151 and 152 and isn't proofs, but more application.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 72,246 Senior Member
    If you are interested in math for its own sake, or are interested in the most highly mathematical areas of engineering / CS (e.g. cryptography), then you may find 291 to be interesting and/or beneficial.

    If the regular courses are "just formulas and rules for solving problems nobody knows where they come from", then I agree that they are not very interesting, and not particularly good. Even if your main interest is applying math to practical problems, knowing where the formulas and rules come from is helpful to understand which of them apply to which problems and how to properly apply them.

    I mean, if you don't understand what integration in calculus means, you could do something like what a medical researcher did as described [url=http://fliptomato.****/2007/03/19/medical-researcher-discovers-integration-gets-75-citations/]here[/url].
  • aegrisomniaaegrisomnia Registered User Posts: 1,026 Senior Member
    ^ That was fantastic.
  • nothing4menothing4me Registered User Posts: 653 Member
    Well I am minoring in computer science and I would certainly like to more about math.
This discussion has been closed.