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Is it possible for someone who is bad at math

A GeniusA Genius Registered User Posts: 94 Junior Member
edited May 2010 in Science Majors
Is it possible for someone who is "bad" at math to become a math major? And I mean a successful one.

By bad, I mean struggling in Calculus. Let's say that <-
Post edited by A Genius on

Replies to: Is it possible for someone who is bad at math

  • crazypianist1116crazypianist1116 Registered User Posts: 299 Junior Member
    It depends on what you're struggling with, what you mean by bad, and how hard you want to try. Have you identified why you're "bad" at math?
  • Ben1220Ben1220 Registered User Posts: 7 New Member
    Just about all of us struggle at some point. Majoring in Maths is not for the faint hearted. You just have to persevere. I got 92 for Calculus 1, a 98 in Calculus 2 and a 96 in Linear Algebra so far, at one of the best Universities in my country (The University of Melbourne). And I'm not a genius. The courses are designed so that students who were capable enough to be admitted in the first place, and have the prerequisites, will be able to succeed if they put in the effort. Just put in the effort and you will almost certainly succeed.
  • GLOBALTRAVELERGLOBALTRAVELER Registered User Posts: 2,886 Senior Member
    I struggled with Calculus I and Calculus II (both grade C) and did better with Calculus III and Ordinary Differential Equations. Add to that, I was barely a B-student overall in Math courses since I struggled with the theoretical courses that were non-computational.

    I still ended up with a B.S. in Computational Mathematics with a pretty big concentration in Computer Science. I still got hired right out college for Westinghouse Energy Systems. I have been doing software engineering/I.T. for almost 20 years and grabbed along the way a M.S. in Systems Engineering (U-Wisconsin, 3.8 gpa), Project Management Certification (PMP), Oracle Certs and obtained a Top-Secret security clearance.

    Not tooting horn...just mentioning how one can parlay their career if they did not light up their undergrad years academically. Also...and maybe I am off-base but it has happened to me, there is still an industry "notion" that if you can complete a "math degree", you can do/learn almost anything else so you would be "thrown" into some engineering positions "just because".
  • A GeniusA Genius Registered User Posts: 94 Junior Member
    I envy mathematicians.

    The reason I am "bad" at mathematics, or Calculus anyway, is the fact that my teacher doesn't teach. He makes students show homework and that's the lesson.

    Also, if I chose to major in Math, I don't think I could have a 4.0 or 3.7+ GPA
  • GLOBALTRAVELERGLOBALTRAVELER Registered User Posts: 2,886 Senior Member
    A Genius...

    Sometimes when you have a bad prof, you may have to do some additional work outside of the classroom to learn the material. When it comes to Calculus, it's mostly about learning the concepts. Check for some book on Amazon that strictly go over Calculus concepts so that you have that foundation. That will help when you get to the more detailed parts of the Calculus problems.

    Also (as many have said on here on other threads), the math courses get easier after Calculus I/II except for stuff like Real Analysis/Advanced Calculus. Courses like Calculus II, Diff Eq, Combinatorics, Optimization/O.R. have a lot of applications and tend to make more sense.
  • starbrightstarbright Registered User Posts: 4,660 Senior Member
    Genius, maybe you are confused (or I am). It's not clear what your worry is; if you struggle with calculus and its because math is not your strongest subject then it makes sense to ask if this is the right major for you; if you struggle with calculus because this year you have a bad teacher, why would this matter for your later major?

    Maybe you can share your actual performance, rather than your causal attributions for it. That is, post what you have gotten in all your math courses, and maybe THEN your belief about the reasons for your performance (which may or may not be correct-- as in most of us are not good at knowing the answer to why we struggle sometimes).

    Dont' get discouraged. Sometimes having the odd bad teacher is a GREAT thing as you learn how to learn from it..you know, how to find extra help when needed, how to find where exactly you are stuck, how to persevere, how to teach yourself when necessary. All great stuff for college, for any major. Most get stuck for various reasons at different points but if you breezed through HS with all great teachers, you might be in for a shocker at college when you hit a wall.

    And another question to ask and answer might be: do you LIKE math? Have you always liked math?

    Also why would you need a 3.7/4.0 in math? That certainly shouldnt' be the criteria for choosing a major, and nor is that standard necessary for almost anything you want to do after your degree.
  • A GeniusA Genius Registered User Posts: 94 Junior Member
    For your first concern, it's possible that Calculus is not my strongest subject.

    For your second conern: (These are my high school grades)
    Algebra II - A - (Good teacher)
    Geometry - A - (Great teacher)
    Precalculus - A (Great teacher)
    Calculus - B+ (Bad teacher)

    I don't need a 3.7/4.0 in MATH, per se. I just want to graduate college with a 3.7 at the lowest because it's important to me.

    For your other concern, I do like math. I think I always have. I just don't know if the challenge of a mathematics major would be too over my head.

    A Genius
  • tiachopvutrutiachopvutru Registered User Posts: 78 Junior Member
    The example of your grade in Calculus tells very little about your innate ability (if there is such thing) because of the several other ways it could happen. I don't know any example to prove; but you will do fine as long as you work hard and don't beat yourself down. To give a little personal opinion, I believe that someone can be successful as long as he/she get the right circumstance, the right mindset, and the right effort. While the things you can change for the first one are limited, going to college and being able to have a lot of resources mean there are a lot of opportunities. As for the last two, they are under your whole control.

    If you don't believe that you are good at math, as long as you make up your mind, you can start working on improving it and then try to see if you are treading on the right territory once you are in college. Consider working on math outside of class, if not to "catch up," then to get ahead. Consider even getting on the subjects in-depth, beyond/outside the scope of your class, and trying out problems that require creative use of what you learn (and thus letting you consolidate your foundation). I'm not sure about college and private schools, but personally, I view that the standard in the U.S., especially in math and technical subjects, set for high school is too low. There are many gaps left to fulfill, much knowledge to consolidate, and subsequently the students are left confused (it might sound less like a paradox when you consider how hard teachers let your learn more).

    This year, I have on several occasions help a student who is very weak at math. I have observed a few things:
    -His approach to solving problem is too mechanical; that is, he relies too much on formula without understanding the formula, and pretty much following examples step-by-step.
    -His basics are extremely weak (does not even remember the formulae for the area of a square and the volume of a cube; I gave him a visual interpretation of how the formulae came about, which brings back to the point above about being mechanical and too formula-focus).
    -Wrong mindset: try only as far as he can complete his homework; does not attempt to understand the expected amount of material nor beyond that amount (I notice this since I tend to sit in class figuring out the things the teacher doesn't tell or has yet to tell).

    That said, it will be hard to proceed without knowing where to step, so I would like suggest some resources (that I can only recommend, unfortunately, based on others' impression):
    Math Books
    -If you want to give a firmer understanding on Calculus:
    Internet Archive: Free Download: Introduction To Calculus (this one starts with sequences and series; I just started it, and I already got kinda lost, so I will ask my teacher for help)
    The most enlightening Calculus books

    Use mathematical competitions to test your progress.

    I know a lot of this post is quite irrelevant directly to the questions at hand. Consider this as a prospective math major passing on his aspiration.

    P.S. I have received some advises that many prospective math major change their mind when they get to studying proof, so you may want to get your hand on that topic early.
  • A GeniusA Genius Registered User Posts: 94 Junior Member
    Thanks for your post, tiachopvutru.

    It's just that I can't see a problem like: http://www.iwu.edu/~lstout/series/img125.gif
    being easy.

    I'm sure with work, it's possible.

    But I don't know if math comes naturally to me and if hard work will actually pay off.
  • xMastemahxMastemah Registered User Posts: 396 Member
    I got a B in Calculus I and it's looking to be a C or B in Calculus II this semester. My lawd, how I HATE Calculus and Math, and how bad I was at it in HS, but I guess if I really needed/wanted to pursue it as a major, I think I could. It just takes quite a bit of applying yourself to learn the material. For some people, the switch flips a bit faster or even without any studying, but for someone like me, I have to sit down and memorize quite a bit to make sure I know the stuff...

  • MSORSAMSORSA Registered User Posts: 69 Junior Member
    Don't get discourage if you struggle with Calculus, I got murdered at my Calculus 2 class and end up with a B.S in Physics and a M.S. in Operartions Operations Research/Systems Engineering. I have 8 years in the industry and like Global Traveler said when they see you have a degree in a math related field they think you can do anything.
  • starbrightstarbright Registered User Posts: 4,660 Senior Member
    Seems like you should major in math if you like it, and it seems have an aptitude for it.

    As for the 3.7...come on, be honest, this isn't a random number out of a hat. Why isn't 3.84 important to you? What happens if its 3.6? Unless you have a valid reason here, it seems like a pretty non-mature way to choose a major (I don't mean to be so harsh but maybe it's worth stating if the advice saves you from yourself: you should be choosing a major you love, one that you can build a wonderful career with, not because it will or will not give you a magic number GPA that has no relevance in the real world).
  • aGGieENGiNeeRaGGieENGiNeeR Registered User Posts: 961 Member
    You are making a B+ in calculus. I would not be worried about it. You should be able to major in math if you put your mind to it. Same goes for anything else.
  • topgun70009topgun70009 Registered User Posts: 70 Junior Member
    Dude a B+ in calculus is not "bad". You're overthinking things. Which means you're certainly cut out to be a mathematician :)

    Your performance in calculus is not a good predictor as to how you will perform in actual math classes like algebra and analysis. I know a handfull of people who got C's in their calculus sequence (mainly because they were partying too much) and then went on to get A's in algebra, topology, algebraic geometry, analysis, and published papers.

    I myself got a wonderful 32% in my 7th grade algebra 1 class. Haha.
  • A GeniusA Genius Registered User Posts: 94 Junior Member
    3.7 is a 'good' GPA to Grad schools. This is why I want a high GPA so I can get somewhere in life outside of this state.
This discussion has been closed.