I know this is a very subjective question, but after struggling on my own for a while I figured I might as well ask it.

I did all the normal math classes in college (LinAlg, MultiVariable Calc, etc... - I was a CS major). I'm now trying to get back into math and have had trouble trying to get an initial foothold.

Basically, my question is whether it would be better to pick a topic area and try to study it, or to go through things that interest me and try to learn what I need to along the way? I've tried both to some degree - I tried to find a few good sources on Category Theory and blaze on ahead but quickly found myself having to grind quite hard and so losing interest to some degree, I also tried to pick up papers off of arXiv and read them while looking up things when I didn't know them, but this path also became pretty tedious as I found myself wandering off on new tangents constantly, moving further and further away from my original goal.

I know the answer undoubtedly has to do with how I learn best and forcing myself through the initial hard parts, but I would be extremely thankful if anyone could help color these paths with their own personal experiences so I could get a feel for them?



closed as primarily opinion-based by астон вілла олоф мэллбэрг, user91500, R_D, JonMark Perry, TastyRomeo Jan 16 '17 at 10:24

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Paper and pencil. Listen to problem statements (like the twin primes conjecture, for example) and try to solve them yourself. Once you have an idea about the scope of the problem, look for what others have done. A topic will not mean much to you until you internalize a problem touching on that topic. $\endgroup$ – abiessu Dec 8 '13 at 4:48
  • $\begingroup$ Are there certain problems I should try to look at? I never really went past the classes I mentioned (ignoring Grapth theory and string algorithms classes) so I'm not even sure of good areas to start looking for problems I should try. $\endgroup$ – user114241 Dec 8 '13 at 4:51
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    $\begingroup$ Could you explain why you want to do this? Do you just want to know more math? Is there some external reason why you need to know more (like to help you do your job)? Do you have some questions you've always wondered about and wish you had enough math insight to understand? And how much time do you have available to work on this? Some idea of what you want to accomplish and your timeframes would help with offering advice. $\endgroup$ – Betty Mock Dec 8 '13 at 5:00
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    $\begingroup$ Well, professional math and physics are tedious, they are difficult subjects, I am not trying to discourage you but I am trying to say that some levels of struggling should be accepted. It is normal to read something quite a few times to understand it. Another point is that the stuff on arXive are usually really professional and high level, why don't you start with a cosmology text book for example? I am also a CS major and I am interested to investigate different areas of science more deeply, so I really relate to what you say. Good luck! $\endgroup$ – hhsaffar Dec 8 '13 at 5:27
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    $\begingroup$ 25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m6ykwvHvaY1rq0qkjo1_500.png $\endgroup$ – Tomek Kania Dec 10 '13 at 10:25

Just try to observe what you wanted to study in maths. And try as much as on paper not orally. Don't get hopeless if you can't get something but try to find out what mistake had you done.


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