Questions about studying mathematics without formal instruction.

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232
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22answers
13k views

On “familiarity” (or How to avoid “going down the Math Rabbit Hole”?)

Anyone trying to learn mathematics on his/her own has had the experience of "going down the Math Rabbit Hole". For example, suppose you come across the novel term vector space, and want to learn more ...
163
votes
28answers
17k 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 ...
151
votes
6answers
6k views

Best Sets of Lecture Notes and Articles

Let me start by apologizing if there is another thread on math.se that subsumes this. I was updating my answer to the question here during which I made the claim that "I spend a lot of time sifting ...
72
votes
8answers
19k 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 ...
71
votes
23answers
15k 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 ...
66
votes
15answers
6k views

A good way to retain mathematical understanding?

What is a good way to remember math concepts/definitions and commit them to long term memory? Background: In my current situation, I'm at an undergraduate institution where I have to take a lot of ...
66
votes
6answers
4k views

Strategies for Effective Self-Study

I have a long-term goal of acquiring graduate-level knowledge in Analysis, Algebra and Geometry/Topology. Once that is achieved, I am interested in applying this knowledge to both pure and applied ...
60
votes
6answers
5k views

Why can't you pick socks using coin flips?

I'm teaching myself axiomatic set theory and I'm having some trouble getting my head around the axiom of choice. I (think I) understand what the axiom says, but I don't get why it is so 'contentious', ...
60
votes
6answers
8k views

Studying for the Putnam Exam

This is a question about studying for the Putnam examination (and, secondarily, other high-difficulty proof-based math competitions like the IMO). It is not about the history of the competition, the ...
47
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 ...
43
votes
8answers
6k views

When to learn category theory?

I'm a undergraduate who wishes to learn category theory but I only have basic knowledge of linear algebra and set theory, I've also had a short course on number theory which used some basic concepts ...
43
votes
17answers
20k views

Good book for self study of a First Course in Real Analysis

Does anyone have a recommendation for a book to use for the self study of real analysis? Several years ago when I completed about half a semester of Real Analysis I, the instructor used "Introduction ...
43
votes
4answers
5k views

Do you prove all theorems whilst studying?

When you come across a new theorem, do you always try to prove it first before reading the proof within the text? I'm a CS undergrad with a bit of an interest in maths. I've not gone very far in my ...
42
votes
9answers
6k views

How to effectively study math?

Maybe this is too general for here, but I am having a lot of difficulty studying math. Just got out of the military and I guess I am not use to this yet but when I run into a problem I have trouble ...
41
votes
15answers
6k views

Why learn to solve differential equations when computers can do it?

I'm getting started learning engineering math. I'm really interested in physics especially quantum mechanics, and I'm coming from a strong CS background. One question is haunting me. Why do I need ...
41
votes
3answers
2k views

Why learning modern algebraic geometry is so complicated?

Many students - myself included - have a lot of problems in learning scheme theory. I don't think that the obstacle is the extreme abstraction of the subject, on the contrary, this is really the ...
40
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 ...
40
votes
6answers
8k views

How Do You Go About Learning Mathematics?

I really like mathematics, but I am not good at learning it. I find it takes me a long time to absorb new material by reading on my own and I haven't found a formula that works for me. I am hoping a ...
39
votes
12answers
3k 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 ...
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 ...
38
votes
15answers
1k 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 ...
36
votes
2answers
736 views

How do I find partners for study?

I want to find partners to study some post-graduate topics together online (because I'm pretty much out of steam as far as self-study goes, and I have problems finding a decent grad school). Are there ...
35
votes
5answers
6k views

(Theoretical) Multivariable Calculus Textbooks [duplicate]

(Note that I have used bold text frequently simply to highlight the key points of my question for those who do not have the time to read through it thoroughly (it is not very long, however); I hope ...
35
votes
3answers
3k views

A path to truly understanding probability and statistics

I'm embarrassed to say that I have a PhD and hold an asst professorship, but get tripped up when reading statistics research. I am in a field of Business that is similar to IO Psychology or Social ...
34
votes
5answers
1k views

Self-learning mathematics - help needed!

First, I apologise for the nebulous nature of my title but I can't adequately explain myself concisely. I am about to start an MSc in pure maths after a fairly shaky undergraduate degree. I am very ...
34
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 ...
34
votes
1answer
1k views

Are difficult exercises good for beginners?

I'm self-studying Rudin's Real and Complex Analysis. I've finished the first two chapters so far, and I don't have any major problems understanding the definitions and theorems. I can prove the ...
33
votes
6answers
1k views

Attitude towards exercises in mathematics

I'm doing self study on a couple of topics in mathematics, such as real analysis, abstract algebra, and linear algebra. From time to time, there are always a couple of exercises which I found too ...
32
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 ...
32
votes
7answers
3k views

Are the exercises necessary to understand the subject of a mathematical textbook?

When I am reading a mathematical textbook, I tend to skip most of the exercises. Generally I don't like exercises, particularly artificial ones. Instead, I concentrate on understanding proofs of ...
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
13answers
11k views

Formerly good at math, but after 12 years I've lost most of my skills. Now I need them once again. Any advice to grow them back?

I love math, and I used to be very good at it. The correct answers came fast and intuitively. I never studied, and redid the demonstration live for the tests (sometimes inventing new ones). I was the ...
28
votes
5answers
1k views

What's the best way to measure mathematical ability?

Very soft question I admit, but it's something that's been bothering me for a while. I've been thinking that being self taught has the problem of accreditation. You can't evaluate a mathematician ...
27
votes
8answers
3k views

Math every mathematician should know [closed]

Sorry in advance if this question doesn't belong here. I know it walks the line of what kinds of questions should be asked, but I'm really interested in what the community here has to say on it. ...
27
votes
8answers
4k views

How can I learn to “read maths” at a University level?

When I look at math, it's like my mind goes fuzzy. The only way to describe it is in terms of what I can relate it to. You know how when you read, you see the letters and words, but your brain picks ...
27
votes
3answers
3k views

Math Major: How to read textbooks in better style or method ? And how to select best books?

I'm a bachelor student of Math major. The question is about the better way to select and read maths text- or non-text- books, without considering the course and exam. (Because we follow the lecture ...
27
votes
3answers
717 views

Do free online collaborative solution manuals exist?

I'm not a mathematician by training and a rarely come in contact with mathematicians. For this reason I find solution manuals to be incredibly useful - reading them allows me to see how experienced ...
26
votes
8answers
2k views

Active learning vs Passive learning in Math

I am trying to improve how I learn in general but specifically in math and a common suggestion I keep coming across is the difference between active learning and passive learning. The problem is, most ...
26
votes
8answers
2k views

Complex analysis is more “real” than real analysis

In physics, in the past, complex numbers were used only to remember or simplify formulas and computations. But after the birth of quantum physics, they found that a thing as real as "matter" itself ...
25
votes
11answers
16k views

How to start with mathematics?

I fell in love with mathematics a bit too late when I've already taken decisions regarding my future, career-wise. Now I would like to learn math on my own but I'm a bit confused as where to start. My ...
25
votes
7answers
19k views

Good books for self-studying algebra?

I have a few weeks off from school soon, and I was hoping to self-study a bit of algebra. I don't think this question has been asked on here before, but does anyone have any suggestions for algebra ...
25
votes
3answers
905 views

When to skip sections of a book when self-studying?

When you're taking a mathematics class, you usually know exactly what sections of a book you need to know, and you can focus your time on these important sections. However, when studying by myself, ...
23
votes
3answers
7k views

I want to get good at math, any good book suggestions?

I have never been good at math. In my senior year I failed algebra 2 in the first semester because the teacher would refuse to show me how to solve problems saying that it's my fault for not paying ...
23
votes
8answers
975 views

Looking to attain fluency in mathematics, not academic mastery

I'm a business/international relations person and a lot of my job is flying around. I have had a lot of downtime recently, and couldn't find a sustainable hobby to fill in that time. Until I found ...
23
votes
4answers
981 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 ...
21
votes
7answers
7k views

Game theory - self study

I want to self study game theory. Which math-related qualifications should I have? And can you recommend any books? Where do I have to begin?
21
votes
1answer
1k views

Efficient ways to read and learn a new topic

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 ...
20
votes
2answers
1k views

What is the prerequisite knowledge for learning Godel's incompleteness theorem

I am very interested in learning the incompleteness theorem and its proof. But first I must know what things I need to learn first. My current knowledge consists of basic high school education and the ...
20
votes
6answers
4k views

Self-Studying Abstract Algebra; Aye or Nay?

I am a high schooler with a deep interest in mathematics, which is why I have self-studied Linear Algebra and have begun my self-study in Differential Equations. As I am a man who likes to plan ahead, ...
19
votes
7answers
17k views

Good abstract algebra books for self study

Last semester I picked up an algebra course at my university, which unfortunately was scheduled during my exams of my major (I'm a computer science major). So I had to self study the material, ...