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5 Things every Math Graduate should know beforehand

by Swapnil Kalita 3 days ago in degree

For many people math is a nightmare and there are a lot of myths going on among us about it. As a Research student of Mathematics I would like to share 5 tips from my personal experience that can help you overcome that fear about math and enjoy it.

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Mathematics is the science of quantity, structure and relation between various objects and many people like to call it the queen of all science. Whenever we hear the word mathematics, the first thing that comes to our mind is counting or measurement. In our day to day life, almost in every moment we use math — be it while buying some stuff in the market or saving money in bank, even on the cellphone we use to call, laptop we use to type, cloths we wear and what not. It is really hard to imagine a life without math.

Despite one uses math every day in life, but many of us startles upon hearing the word itself. Be it in kindergarten or in Middle School or even in High School, Math instills great fear in many of our heart. Every time when people get to know that I am doing my PhD in Math, they will look at me as if I am some kind of alien or some brilliant person. But honestly If you guys listen to me I am neither one of that; and math is nothing special or hard. It can be really fun and enjoyable most of the time and can offer great career opportunities in life. But before pursuing your higher education in mathematics here are 5 things that you must know beforehand, which will make it much more easier.

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Math is not just about calculating.

Whenever we think of mathematics we think about calculation, like addition, subtraction, multiplication, division etc. But it is just a small part of whole mathematics like a small country in a vast continent or a small district in a large country. Once you will take enroll in Math for graduation or masters, you will come across Analysis, Algebra, Complex Numbers etc. which has nothing to do with calculation. These are mostly called part of mathematics and these needs a lot of critical thinking and reasoning capacity rather than pressing some keys in calculator. You will often find yourself busy in finding logical statement in Set theory or defining properties of rings or fields in Algebra and many more.

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You need to do a lot of thinking and analyze concepts.

You have already understood by now that math is more than just calculating numbers. You will need a lot of thinking capacity to understand the basic theory and have a solid foundation about any topic. Once you come across any new topic you have to read the content, understand the theorem by heart and then you need to analyze it so that you understand how the writer has proceeded from one step to the next and what more you can add to it from your own understanding. During my Masters I took a project on elliptic curve (Bitcoin uses elliptic curve cryptography algorithm) and it took me days just to understand the basic concepts. There were many conjectures and lemma related to it that mathematicians are trying to prove for years. One of such conjecture namely BSD conjecture has a million dollar prizepool for anyone who can prove it since 2000.

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You need to be persistent.

Persistence is something that you will need in any subject and math is no different. It is always the key to any success. At times it can be really difficult get a hold of it, but that is what stands out successful people from the rest of the crowd. When you read something in math and find a new problem, you have to analyze it for hours before you find any clue to solve the same. Some problem can even take months or years. When Andrew Wiles was a small kid, he was always fascinated about Fermat’s last theorem; a problem from number theory that was unsolved for 358 years. After years of struggle, hard work and countless number of failures in 1994 Wiles finally able to prove it and this was one of the groundbreaking moments for Mathematics.

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You must have some basic knowledge of programming.

Now you may ask me why we need to learn programming, as that’s what a CS student would do. But you are wrong my friend, A math student do need programming as much as a CS student do. These days every science is interconnected and though you study one in particular you must have a basic knowledge about the others. There are a lot of problems in mathematics that you cant just simply solve with pen and paper. You have to find an algorithm for it, write a programming code and let the computer do the rest for you. In many other cases you need to take the help of software like Matlab, Python to solve some complex problems and plot some complex graphs. So learning some basic programming and coding will really help you for your future journey. Personally for my research topic in Number Theory, I use a lot of python program every day.

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One need to know the special characters and notations.

We all think math as the science of numbers and interaction between these numbers. But when we join a bachelor or a masters degree in math we will be using these numbers a lot less frequently. Instead we will be using letters to denote different kind of variables we come across, Greek symbols to denote various operations and other special characters. At first this can be quite confusing, but knowing all the characters and getting familiar with them beforehand might make our journey a lot easier.

A degree in Math is not an easy one; it needs lot of hard work and dedication. But at the same time it can be very rewarding and an array of possibilities open with it. But many of us do mistake thinking math is a really hard nut to crack and only the brilliant people are good at it. But that is far from the truth. Any average person who is persistent about it and keep these above 5 things in mind before starting their journey as a math graduate can master the subject in no time. Always remember you don’t need to have math “gene” to do good in math, if you work hard for it and be passionate about it, you can do the same or maybe better than any other in this field.

Swapnil Kalita
Read next: The Unconventional College Life
Swapnil Kalita

I am a Writer and a Storyteller with a Math postgraduate degree. I like to sip a cup of coffee in a cafe amidst the beauty of nature and write about some bittersweet moments in life.

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