Questions asking for advice on various mathematical matters. Be careful that your question is answerable, and also that it is not a polling question (e.g. "What is the best / your favorite way to...").

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398
votes
25answers
82k views

How to study math to really understand it and have a healthy lifestyle with free time?

Here's my problem. I'm studying math and when I really work hard, I think I understand things very good, but that comes at a big cost: in the last few years, I've had practically zero physical ...
178
votes
28answers
22k views

Too old to start math

I'm sorry if this question goes against the meta for posting questions - I attached all the "beware, this is a soft-question" tags I could. This is a question I've been asking myself now for some ...
157
votes
14answers
10k views

Identification of a quadrilateral as a trapezoid, rectangle, or square

Yesterday I was tutoring a student, and the following question arose (number 76): My student believed the answer to be J: square. I reasoned with her that the information given only allows us to ...
107
votes
9answers
10k views

How do I sell out with abstract algebra?

My plan as an undergraduate was unequivocally to be a pure mathematician, working as an algebraist as a bigshot professor at a bigshot university. I'm graduating this month, and I didn't get into ...
97
votes
10answers
3k views

what is expected from a PhD student?

As a PhD student in applied mathematics or mathematics in general, are you expected to be able to prove every problem, for example, in an elementary real analysis book? I know it sounds silly but I am ...
93
votes
18answers
9k views

How do you describe your mathematical research in layman's terms?

"You do research in mathematics! Can you explain your research to me?" If you're a research mathematician, and you have any contact with people outside of the mathematics community, I'm sure ...
77
votes
8answers
22k views

Learning mathematics as if an absolute beginner?

I dread mathematics, and I believe it's because I have come to associate mathematics with the experience of terrible teachers. All of my math teachers have been grumpy, but one in particular was the ...
76
votes
23answers
20k views

Complete course of self-study

I am about $16$ years old and I have just started studying some college mathematics. I may never manage to get into a proper or good university (I do not trust fate) but I want to really study ...
75
votes
9answers
7k views

Math and mental fatigue

Just a soft-question that has been bugging me for a long time: How does one deal with mental fatigue when studying math? I am interested in Mathematics, but when studying say Galois Theory and ...
74
votes
5answers
3k views

“Advice to young mathematicians”

I have been suggested to read the Advice to a Young Mathematician section of the Princeton Companion to Mathematics, the short paper Ten Lessons I wish I had been Taught by Gian-Carlo Rota, and the ...
64
votes
11answers
12k views

Am I just not smart enough? [closed]

When I was doing math, let us say for example, introductory number theory, it seems to take me a lot of time to fully understand a theorem. By understanding, I mean, both intuitively and also ...
64
votes
7answers
6k views

What made you choose your research field?

I was wondering how come modern mathematicians do not seem to discover as many theorems as the older mathematicians seem to have done. Have we reached some kind of saturation limit where all commonly ...
50
votes
7answers
2k views

Am I too young to learn more advanced math and get a teacher?

I am still 15 years old, but I am very interested in pure math. I have been teaching myself though books, from the internet and from others for the past year or so. I haven't mastered all the topics ...
49
votes
5answers
2k views

How does one give a mathematical talk?

Sometime tomorrow morning I will be presenting a mathematics talk on something related to commutative algebra. The people present there will probably be two mathematicians (an algebraic geometer and a ...
46
votes
15answers
5k views

How do I motivate myself to do math again?

I have been thinking of asking for help for a few months now but posting in a public forum like this is intimidating. Still, I am currently in a university studying mathematics as an undergrad. I took ...
45
votes
12answers
4k views

I almost quit self-studying mathematics, but should I continue?

Before I move on to the main idea of this post, I need to tell you some background information about myself. Hopefully, it proves useful for you in giving me advice. I'm a 16 year old high school ...
43
votes
6answers
6k views

What is mathematical research like?

I'm planning on applying for a math research program over the summer, but I'm slightly nervous about it just because the name math research sounds strange to me. What does math research entail ...
42
votes
3answers
4k views

Motivation and methods for self-study

First, a little background: Beginning with calculus in my first semester of college, I fell in love with mathematics. That was the point at which the concepts became interesting to me, and I started ...
41
votes
8answers
4k views

How does a non-mathematician go about publishing a proof in a way that ensures it to be up to the mathematical community's standards?

I'm a computer science student who is a maths hobbyist. I'm convinced that I've proven a major conjecture. The problem lies in that I've never published anything before and am not a mathematician by ...
41
votes
7answers
7k views

How to tell if I'm good enough for graduate school?

I'm concerned about my level of preparation for graduate school. I have decent grades (3.64 GPA, 4.0 in math), great recommendations lined up, and some OK research experience (no publications), but I ...
41
votes
15answers
2k views

Nobody told me that self teaching could be so damaging…

Even though I've been teaching myself math for a couple of years now I only just started (a month ago) at the university. My experience is rather mixed. For starters, I'd like to mention that I'm 21 ...
41
votes
6answers
4k views

What should an amateur do with a proof of an open problem?

Assuming that somebody is not an employee of a university, just a math amateur, and makes a proper proof of some well known open math problem, what should he do with it? Publish on the internet for ...
41
votes
2answers
724 views

Effective Research Notes

Note-taking for research is vital to your success as a mathematician. As I look back at some of my handwritten notes, I realized how poor they were. I had thought to myself, "What happened?" I was ...
40
votes
9answers
4k views

When to give up on a hard math problem?

I practice olympiad problems from books like Putnam and Beyond. Often I come across a problem that I simply can't solve. After $\sim30$ minutes of deep thinking it feels like I'm ramming my head into ...
40
votes
5answers
7k views

What are the work habits of the best mathematicians? [closed]

Of course I would never compare myself to, and don't expect to be, one of the great mathematicians. However, I am curious as to how my work habits, dedication and passion differs from theirs. How ...
39
votes
7answers
2k views

When working proof exercises from a textbook with no solutions manual, how do you know when your proof is sound/acceptable?

When working proof exercises from a textbook with no solutions manual, how do you know when your proof is sound/acceptable? Often times I "feel" as if I can write a proof to an exercise but most ...
35
votes
7answers
4k views

Should I be worried that I am doing well in analysis and not well in algebra? [closed]

I attend a mostly liberal arts focused university, in which I was able to test out of an "Introduction to Proofs" class and directly into "Advanced Calculus 1" (Introductory Analysis I) and I loved ...
33
votes
10answers
3k views

Becoming Better at Math

How can I become excellent at math? It really interests me but when I fail I become demotivated and begin to give up. EDIT: Could anyone suggest books for someone with a math education that just ...
33
votes
7answers
4k views

What are some good math specific study habits?

What are/ were some of your good mathematician's study habits that you found really worked for you? I'm a CS major at a respected school and have a solid GPA... However, I definitely lack when it ...
31
votes
10answers
3k views

How to be a successful math undergraduate student?

I am an undergratuate student in my first year of combined bachelor of electrical engineering and bachelor of mathematics. For my mathematics degree, this year I am supposed to take two math courses ...
31
votes
4answers
5k views

Learning Roadmap for Algebraic Topology

I am now considering about studying algebraic topology. There are a lot of books about it, and I want to choose the most comprehensive book among them. I have a solid background in Abstract Algebra, ...
30
votes
8answers
2k views

How to use math textbooks

I'm a higher schooler who was recently gifted a book by my teacher (Schaum's outline of advanced calculus) which is really awesome and I've started working my way through it. I have run into a ...
28
votes
27answers
3k views

Gift advice: present for high school graduate interested in math

I am a PhD student in mathematics who recently found out that I will be attending my girlfriend's cousin's high school graduation party. I have never met the cousin, but hear that he is very ...
28
votes
8answers
4k views

Math every mathematician should know [closed]

This question is meant as a companion to previously asked questions like Proofs every mathematician should know. More and more I'm beginning to see that there is just too much math to learn. ...
28
votes
6answers
2k views

Cool mathematics I can show to calculus students.

I am a TA for theoretical linear algebra and calculus course this semester. This is an advanced course for strong freshmen. Every discussion section I am trying to show my students (give them as a ...
28
votes
4answers
1k views

Understanding mathematics imprecisely

For a long time, it has been a complete mystery to me how any of my peers understood any math at all with anything short of filling in every detail, being careful about every set theoretic detail down ...
25
votes
5answers
4k views

Is a good GRE score enough for a non-math graduate to be accepted in a decent pure mathematics graduate program?

I have a computer engineering degree , and i have studied several mathematics courses like single variable and multiples variables calculus , complex variables , probability , numerical analysis ... ...
25
votes
4answers
4k views

Math GRE Subject Exam

I am studying for the GRE Mathematics subject exam [1]. I am looking for tips regarding how to more effectively study for it. Does anyone know of any good study materials or have any tips in general? ...
24
votes
4answers
1k views

Are there any common practices in mathematics to guard against mistakes?

It occurred to me that math is somewhat like programming (or vice-versa, if you prefer) because, in both, it is easy to make mistakes or overlook them, and the smallest error or misguided assumption ...
24
votes
2answers
1k views

Efficient ways to read and learn a new topic [closed]

I started reading the book "Topology without tears" by Sidney A Morris and lecture notes on "Elementary Number Theory" by WWL.Chen. To get the maximum out of the book and understand the material ...
23
votes
6answers
7k views

Teaching a 4 year old maths

Im 18 years old and getting to grips with advanced mathematics (pre-university) and I have a younger brother of 4 years old (quite an age gap). I want to get him interested in learning (and away from ...
23
votes
3answers
1k views

How much time is too much (to put into a single problem)?

As a self-studier, I have no due dates and no time pressure. This is partly a good thing since I do have a life outside of my pursuit of mathematics. However, the lack of pressure is also a bad ...
21
votes
3answers
1k views

Academic integrity [closed]

This may sound like a childish question and for all its worth, very well may be one as I am only 17, but how do I know who to trust with reviewing or looking at my work? The idea of someone stealing ...
21
votes
6answers
1k views

What am I losing if I decide to perform all math by computer?

I solve mathematical problems every day, some by hand and some with the computer. I wonder: What will I lose if I start doing the mathematical problems only by computer? I've read this text and the ...
21
votes
1answer
600 views

Advice: Difficult Situation [closed]

I'm in need of advice with my life/studies. This will probably turn out to be a long post so here goes. My background I did very well in high school mathematics achieving an average 97.5% over 6 ...
20
votes
6answers
4k views

Submit papers: arxiv or vixra? [closed]

If I submit a paper at other place (for example vixra) first, can I (modify it and) submit it to arxiv again? Is it valuable to publish a paper at the vixra? Except arxiv and vixra, does any other ...
20
votes
11answers
3k views

Gap year to study math

This is a plan in its earliest and thus least concise stage, so either bear with me or don't read the following babble (I bolded some of the important stuff): I am a high school graduate who is about ...
20
votes
4answers
1k views

Perspectives on Riemann Surfaces

So, I have come to a somewhat impasse concerning my class selection for next term, and I have exhausted all the 'biased' sources. So, I was wondering if anyone in this fantastic mathematical community ...
20
votes
6answers
585 views

Generic elementary group theory problems.

This question is about generic group theory problems. here are examples for what I’m referring to: Prove that any group of order $p^2$, where $p$ is a prime, is abelian. Let $G$ be a ...
20
votes
4answers
2k views

Pure mathematics curriculum for self study with interests in foundational issues

I wonder if I want to make my own pure mathematics curriculum to study along the next 4 or 5 years. What topics should I include? I want it to be like one which an undergraduate student of pure ...