For questions whose answers can't be objectively evaluated as correct or incorrect, but which are still are relevant to this site. Please be specific about what you are after.

learn more… | top users | synonyms

41
votes
7answers
4k views

What does it take to get a job at a top 50 math program in the U.S.?

I'm a senior undergrad right at a small liberal arts college right now who is applying to math PhD programs in the U.S. I would like to eventually become a professor at a relatively good university ...
41
votes
10answers
1k views

Why does being holomorphic imply so much about a function?

I haven't yet started my complex analysis course (soon!), but recently (inspired by you guys) I've been looking into holomorphic functions. And wow, they're cool! There's so much stuff that's true ...
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
13answers
3k views

Is there such a thing as proof by example (not counter example)

Is there such a logical thing as proof by example? I know many times when I am working with algebraic manipulations, I do quick tests to see if I remembered the formula right. This works and is ...
40
votes
7answers
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 ...
40
votes
17answers
4k views

What's the goal of mathematics?

Are we just trying to prove every theorem or find theories which lead to a lot of creativity or what? I've already read G. H. Hardy Apology but I didn't get an answer from it.
40
votes
11answers
2k views

What if $\pi$ was an algebraic number? (significance of algebraic numbers)

To be honest, I never really understood the importance of algebraic numbers. If we lived in an universe where $\pi$ was algebraic, would there be a palpable difference between that universe and ours? ...
40
votes
15answers
4k 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 ...
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
5answers
2k views

Why do we negate the imaginary part when conjugating?

For $z=x+iy \in \mathbb C$ we all know the definition for the "conjugate" of $z$, $\bar{z}=x-iy$. Geometrically this is the reflection of $z$ across the $y$ axis. My question is: couldn't we have ...
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 ...
40
votes
6answers
4k 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 ...
39
votes
25answers
7k views

“Negative” versus “Minus”

As a math educator, do you think it is appropriate to insist that students say "negative $0.8$" and not "minus $0.8$" to denote $-0.8$? The so called "textbook answer" regarding this question reads: ...
39
votes
7answers
1k views

Algebraic Intuition for Homological Algebra and Applications to More Elementary Algebra

I am taking a course next term in homological algebra (using Weibel's classic text) and am having a hard time seeing some of the big picture of the idea behind homological algebra. Now, this sort of ...
39
votes
5answers
3k views

How to write a good mathematical paper?

I hesitate to ask this question. However I read many advices from math.stackexchange, and I couldn't find anything similar. A good time always goes too fast! Two years are fled. In the third year of ...
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 ...
39
votes
4answers
2k views

What kind of work do modern day algebraists do?

Often times in my studies I get the impression that algebra is just a tool to help with other branches of mathematics, like algebraic geometry, algebraic number theory, algebraic topology, etc. How ...
38
votes
17answers
4k views

Nuking the Mosquito — ridiculously complicated ways to achieve very simple results [closed]

Here is a toned down example of what I'm looking for: Integration by solving for the unknown integral of $f(x)=x$: $$\int x \, dx=x^2-\int x \, dx$$ $$2\int x \, dx=x^2$$ $$\int x \, ...
38
votes
8answers
5k views

Why is there never a proof that extending the reals to the complex numbers will not cause contradictions?

The number $i$ is essentially defined for a property we would like to have - to then lead to taking square roots of negative reals, to solve any polynomial, etc. But there is never a proof this cannot ...
38
votes
7answers
8k views

I can't do math?

So after failing another math test today I have realized that I can't do math on my own. For whatever reason when I get to a test I just can't do math without extra resources. I think this is because ...
38
votes
17answers
4k views

What exactly is a number?

We've just been learning about complex numbers in class, and I don't really see why they're called numbers. Originally, a number used to be a means of counting (natural numbers). Then we extend ...
38
votes
5answers
2k views

Understanding the Laplace operator conceptually

The Laplace operator: those of you who now understand it, how would you explain what it "does" conceptually? How do you wish you had been taught it? Any good essays (combining both history and ...
38
votes
8answers
2k views

Intuitive meaning of Exact Sequence

I'm currently learning about exact sequences in grad sch Algebra I course, but I really can't get the intuitive picture of the concept and why it is important at all. Can anyone explain them for me? ...
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 ...
38
votes
6answers
2k views

Has any previously unknown result been proven by an automated theorem prover?

The Wikipedia page on automated theorem proving states: Despite these theoretical limits, in practice, theorem provers can solve many hard problems... However it is not clear whether these 'hard ...
37
votes
7answers
5k 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 ...
37
votes
16answers
8k views

Pen, pencils and paper to write math [closed]

The question is inspired by this thread on MO. My father is a mathematician, so I remember seeing very nice pens all around. When I started to do math by myself I've realized how important can be a ...
37
votes
8answers
3k views

How important is programming for mathematicians?

I'm a freshman student in mathematics, and I'm considering whether or not to take a programming course. How important is programming for mathematicians? Do working mathematicians use programs to aid ...
37
votes
5answers
3k views

Soft Question - Intuition of the meaning of homology groups

I'm studying homology groups and I'm looking to try and develop, if possible, a little more intuition about what they actually mean. I've only been studying homology for a short while, so if possible ...
37
votes
3answers
673 views

Conjectural closed-form representations of sums, products or integrals

What are some examples of infinite sums, products or definite integrals that have conjectural closed form representations that were confirmed by numerical calculations up to whatever maximum precision ...
36
votes
12answers
15k views

Real life applications of Topology

The other day I and my friend were having an argument. He was saying that there is no real life application of Topology at all whatsoever. I want to disprove him, so posting the question here What ...
36
votes
6answers
1k views

Need a result of Euler that is simple enough for a child to understand

Talking to my 8 yr old about "the greatest mathematician of all time", I said it was probably Gauss in my opinion, but that Gauss was not very kind to his kids (for example, forbidding them to go into ...
36
votes
7answers
4k views

Open math problems which high school students can understand

I request people to list some moderately and/or very famous open problems which high school students,perhaps with enough contest math background, can understand, classified by categories as on ...
36
votes
2answers
3k views

What does “communicated by” mean in math papers?

[This question involves mostly math papers, and may be relevant to graduate students learning to write and cite papers, although this is my only justification for this being a math question.] Usually ...
36
votes
5answers
6k views

How hard should a mathematician work? [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 ...
36
votes
6answers
3k views

How hard is the proof of $\pi$ or e being transcendental?

I understand that $\pi$ and e are transcendental and that these are not simple facts. I mean, I have been told that these results are deep and difficult, and I am happy to believe them. I am curious ...
36
votes
10answers
4k views

Paradox: increasing sequence that goes to $0$?

It is $10$ o'clock, and I have a box. Inside the box is a ball marked $1$. At $10$:$30$, I will remove the ball marked $1$, and add two balls, labeled $2$ and $3$. At $10$:$45$, I will remove the ...
36
votes
3answers
1k views

What is your method?

Many young, and not so young, mathematicians struggle with how to spend their time. Perhaps this is due to the 90%-10% rule for mathematical insight: 90 pages of work yield only 10 pages of useful ...
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
10answers
2k views

Mind-blowing mathematics experiments

We've all heard of some mind-blowing phenomena involving the sciences, such as the double-slit experiment. I was wondering if there are similair experiments or phenomena which seem very ...
35
votes
6answers
3k views

How to learn from proofs?

Recently I finished my 4-year undergraduate studies in mathematics. During the four years, I've met all kinds of proofs. Some of them are friendly: they either show you a basic skill in one field or ...
35
votes
4answers
6k views

The Langlands program for beginners

Assuming that a person has taken standard undergraduate math courses (algebra, analysis, point-set topology), what other things he must know before he can understand the Langlands program and its ...
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
15answers
4k views

Why are real numbers useful?

A question (by a fellow CS student taking a first course in calculus, presumably after the lecture in which continuity was introduced: was as follows. In the real, physical world, we deal with ...
34
votes
6answers
2k views

A Question about Doctoral Theses in Mathematics [closed]

This is most definitely a soft question, which I'm sure may get some negative attention, and perhaps even be voted closed. However, I genuinely would like to generate answers on this matter as it ...
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 ...
34
votes
4answers
2k views

A Young Math Enthusiast's Fear

Having been an avid lover of Mathematics, it is my dream to become a mathematician one day. It is purely passion that drives me and I just can't stand the thought of not doing math when I grow older. ...
34
votes
2answers
1k views

How much rigour is necessary?

I am taking a course in Algebraic Topology. We are using Hatcher as a textbook. One of the main problems I am facing with the textbook is its level of rigour. Example: On Pg 10, Hatcher mentions in ...
33
votes
17answers
3k views

Non-Scientific questions solved by mathematics

I have a general question about the applications of mathematics. What are some applications of mathematics that are not scientific, perhaps maybe literary or philosophical, or political. I am ...