Questions tagged [advice]

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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738
votes
27answers
174k views

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

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 ...
246
votes
28answers
37k views

Too old to start math [closed]

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 ...
193
votes
15answers
15k 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 ...
183
votes
9answers
26k 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 ...
157
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8answers
10k 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 ...
138
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18answers
17k 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 you've ...
130
votes
10answers
27k views

Math and mental fatigue [closed]

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 ...
124
votes
10answers
5k 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 ...
105
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23answers
55k views

Complete course of self-study [closed]

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 ...
93
votes
11answers
18k 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 ...
92
votes
8answers
13k 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 ...
88
votes
9answers
28k views

Learning mathematics as if an absolute beginner? [closed]

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 ...
65
votes
2answers
26k views

What is the proper way to study (more advanced) math?

Here's what happens. I get stuck on some proof or some mathematical construction and I end up staring at the problem for hours, sometimes not making any progress. I do this because sometimes I think ...
64
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6answers
4k 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 ...
62
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9answers
27k 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 exactly?...
61
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15answers
17k views

How do I motivate myself to do math again? [closed]

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 ...
60
votes
3answers
9k views

Motivation and methods for self-study [closed]

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 ...
59
votes
7answers
14k views

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

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 ...
58
votes
8answers
11k 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? [closed]

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 ...
57
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10answers
10k 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 ...
57
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12answers
8k 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 ...
56
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14answers
23k 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 ...
55
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4answers
3k 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 ...
53
votes
7answers
17k 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 it....
52
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25answers
6k views

What books should I get to self study beyond Calculus for someone about to start undergrad mathematics?

I am struggling to pick out books when it comes to self studying math beyond Calculus. My situation is as follows. I have taken all math courses at my school (up to Calc BC and AP Stats) and I have ...
51
votes
4answers
13k 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, ...
46
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2answers
2k 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 ...
44
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6answers
6k 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 ...
42
votes
7answers
11k 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 ...
42
votes
7answers
3k 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 of ...
41
votes
9answers
15k views

How to be a successful math undergraduate student? [closed]

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 ...
36
votes
2answers
5k views

Spotting crankery

Underwood Dudley published a book called mathematical cranks that talks about faux proofs throughout history. While it seems to be mostly for entertainment than anything else, I feel it has become ...
35
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10answers
4k 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 ...
34
votes
6answers
3k 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 ...
34
votes
6answers
15k views

How long to do math each day? [closed]

I have seen some posts math.SE (mkko's answer) indicating that it is the norm for (undergrad?) math majors to study 70-80 hours per week. I'm a little bit shocked by that. For some background on me, I'...
34
votes
8answers
3k 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 ...
33
votes
4answers
2k 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 ...
33
votes
5answers
5k 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 ...
32
votes
2answers
2k 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 ...
31
votes
6answers
7k 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 ... ...
31
votes
2answers
4k views

Strategies and Tips: What to do when stuck on math?

Since math students will be stuck on some math at some point, what strategies or tips can help (to assuage this recurrent reality of maths)? Certainly, this wonderful website helps; here: one can ...
29
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26answers
4k 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 ...
29
votes
4answers
4k 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 ...
28
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2answers
2k views

Is there a profitable way to read mathematical proofs

Mathematical proofs are often presented in a sequential way, i.e., presenting definitions, building lemmas based on these definitions, building further results on these lemmas and finally invoking a ...
27
votes
7answers
22k 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 ...
26
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 ...
26
votes
5answers
4k views

Bad at computations… but not math?

Very generally, the question I'm trying to ask is: Can someone be a good professional mathematician without being particularly good at (or even being - relatively - bad at) computations? More ...
26
votes
1answer
1k views

Learning Math Efficienctly and Succeeding in Grad School

I'm currently a second year Ph.D. student studying pure math. I've recently come to the conclusion that I must be studying wrong. Actually, more to the point, I must be thinking about mathematics ...
25
votes
3answers
3k views

Do I need to cite an old theorem, if I've strengthened it, wrote my own theorem statement, with a different proof?

Let's say I have been studying an older theorem statement and its proof. I feel that it can be improved, e.g., I can make it a stronger double-implication theorem statement, with a different proof. ...
25
votes
11answers
5k 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 ...