I apologize if this question isn't appropriate for this site, but I am looking for advice that I think other math students might be better able to give me.
I am an undergraduate math major entering into my second year.
What I have found is that I love theoretical discussions of mathematics and proving theorems, though the education system focuses on doing exercises and applications, and that is what grades are determined on. I have a hard time doing exercises mainly because I don't find them motivating, although, I admit, doing the exercises does cultivate one's intuition to a certain degree.
Up until now my main technique of learning was to take meticulous notes from textbooks(not in class as all they do is mundane exercises), think about those concepts and then practice exercises before exams, and it worked fine for discrete math, precalculus, and even the first course of calculus, which was mainly focused on derivatives. Further. I as able to maintain A's in all my classes with enough energy left over to even do very well in other classes.
However, this hasn't gone too well in the second course of calculus, which is mostly about integrals of various functions and their applications and techniques. The instructor usually does problems on the board step by step without any discussion for what we are doing. For example, both the fundamental theorems were introduced and given about 15 minutes of time to discuss. But, of course, this could be bad teaching style.
My question is this, should I learn math theoretically and understand the material well even though on tests this would mean getting about B's that I have gotten or should I only care about the grades and just do what I am told, like a human calculator, practice exercises and just focus on getting A's? What is the better for me in the long run if I want to get into a decent grad school? And have any of you ever had to decide between getting an A or spending more energy and time actually learning the theory, which is more satisfying? I could be looking at this completely wrong and perhaps there is a way to do both? Thank you and your input will be appreciated.