View Full Version here: : maths worries
04-08-2011, 07:51 PM
like everyone on ice in space, I am passionate about astronomy. At the moment, have been thinking of a future in astrophysics. during my lower highschool years, i have always felt confident in the science classroom but I'm now really starting to worry that my not being any good at maths (I average at c level) will prevent me form being able to progress with my studies without it being really difficult:eyepop:
I know that hard work is the only thing thats going to help, but I find maths really mind boggling sometimes:(:(
advice would be much appreciated
04-08-2011, 08:13 PM
Carl (Renormalised) recently completed a Masters degree in Astrophysics.
He might be able to give you an insight.
04-08-2011, 08:21 PM
I can only speak for myself but this is my experience:
I was doing very well in maths all the way through school and highschool, and always wanted to study astronomy at university. I began uni immediately after highschool but found that the maths required was simply killing my joy. I didn't have the necessary flair for it at such high level and/or the patience to learn and memorize countless mathematical proofs which we had to do in order to pass exams. And the astronomy content was minimal until you reached year 3-4. Maybe it was due to the way it was taught but I just found it dissappointing overall, especially because this was what I'd always dreamt of doing.
We had a simple introductory astronomy course during the first year, and I vividly recall one day when we had all recently been struggling with quantum mechanics (which was the most dreaded and feared subject): Our astronomy lecturer's response was "Oh quantum mechanics, I've never had any use for that". That day I realised i was wasting my time :) So I left uni and pursued computer programming instead.
A few of those I studied with have gone on to become quite successful astronomers, one received the Hubble Postdoctoral Fellowship and works at Caltech now. I recall him also as being very very bright. Another one who cruised through it was Niels Bohr's great grandchild! I think all in all maybe 5% of those who started that year actually completed the studies and became actual scientists.
In the end I'm actually happy that I didn't complete the studies because my impression of the profession is that it involves a lot of paperwork and competing for funding etc. Now I know that I'd much rather have the scope in my backyard and be able to do with it what I want.
As I said, it's only my experience, and yours may be different. But if you have trouble with maths now then I don't think it'll be easier when you study astrophysics so you'd have to be prepared to put in some hard work.
04-08-2011, 08:48 PM
I am currently studying after 30 odd years since high school. I myself am enjoying the experience and although Math is difficult my teacher are very good and very supportive.
I find using http://www.brightstorm.com/math as a tutoring site has been worth it. It just gives me a second opinion on working out some difficulties. Site also has Physic and Chemistry as well.
04-08-2011, 09:20 PM
Read the words near my signature...you have one life etc.
I believe half the battle in achieving any goal is setting it really...so write it down and place it where you can be remined that is the object of the game...
Break your path up into periods of time setting out what you need to do and by when...and most of all take time to imagine the realization of your dream...I can not offer a scientific basis for why such works but it does...at least for me...But be careful how you think ..it is critical to think good things because if I am right what you "see" is what comes to pass ..so do not focus on the negative only see the win.
Maths is not easy..accept that and be prepared to do what it takes if you want to make it.
I made the mistake of giving up on a caree in science... I was good at school topped the final year in combined chemistry and science ... near perfect mark but lost 1.5 marks for a simple miscalculation...could not get into Uni of NSW because of only doing combined maths but gave up and did law..a waste of life. I would sweat blood if I had my time over again even to only get to being a lab assistent.
You have to love your caree and live in hope that you can contribute to humanity... critical for self estmme.
Good luck call me when you get your degree.
05-08-2011, 01:19 AM
Hi Molly, I'm the one Steven was talking to you about:)
What are the grades they give you in Victoria for your subjects?? That'll give me some idea of where you're at present. Oh, and what grade are you in?? Even if you're in Grade 11 (or 12), you can still get your maths marks up to give you a decent start.
Nothing worth the effort is easy. Even I struggle with things at times, but you just have to be persistent and don't be afraid to ask for help.
With any science, let alone astrophysics, it does pay to have a reasonable grasp of maths. You don't have to be a "super genius" or an A grade student (it helps though:P), but so long as you can understand the basics of algebra and calculus, you'll be OK. Most people who enter uni and end up doing astronomy/astrophysics in graduate/postgrad school usually take physics and some maths classes at uni. Although the physics classes are the most important. However, you can come at it from several angles....you can do geology, chemistry or biology and still do astronomy in postgrad. It's not all physics, although it will be a major component of any course. Someone with a background in chemistry, for instance, can become an astrochemist and study the chemistry of molecular and dust clouds. You could become an astrobiologist, and study the "bugs upstairs"...comparing life here with any possible life in space, looking for Earth like planets and figuring out the environments there. As a planetary geologist, you look for planets orbiting other stars and use what we know about our own solar system to model the other planets and the conditions which allow their formation. You will even have heaps still to study about our own solar system. There are many different avenues which you can try. See which ones you like. I'm a planetary geologist, but I also have an interest in stellar formation and evolution. I like to know how the stars, of all sizes, are formed and evolve because they can give me clues on how widespread the formation of planets is, and just how common terrestrial and giant planets are. Knowing what types of star are more likely to form planets also allows scientists to work out where possible places for life to be found, might be.
Where maths will really come to the fore is when you start to get into areas like cosmology, galaxy formation evolution and dynamics, stellar formation and evolution, stellar structure (helioseismology, thermodynamics and the like), anywhere you need maths to model astrophysical characteristics and phenomenon. That can be pretty much in all branches, however some are more laden with maths than others.
If you don't want, or need, to do a pure maths/physics course at uni (if you're not thinking of becoming a particle physicist/cosmologist or any sort of purely theoretical astrophysicist), then I would suggest you take other courses in science which you may like. Say a combination of physics/geology, physics/chemistry, physics/biology...or whatever you feel is going to get you into where you want to be. If there are any astronomy subjects you can take, then do so. They will help quite a lot and give you an idea of where things will head for you in the future. Plus, give you the introductory background knowledge you need. In any case, a mix of courses will give you extra grounding in how science works across disciplines and helps to break things up a bit. Keeps you from going mad:):P
05-08-2011, 08:36 AM
How much maths you encounter ultimately depends on whether you are interested in experimental or theoretical astrophysics.
Some branches of theoretical astrophysics such as Cosmology are heavily steeped in mathematics.
In fact Cosmology is offered as an honours level course in applied mathematics.
05-08-2011, 09:19 AM
How much maths, eh ? The eternal question in astronomy ...
Simple fact is .. the more maths skills one possesses, the more insight you will gain into the nature of the universe.
The pressures in high school to achieve in maths are very considerable. From my own experience, I was also acutely aware of this pressure. As a matter of fact, it was always at the forefront of my mind, and probably constituted my greatest fear in life.
I found this all changed at university when other influences came into play. When I graduated and moved onto uni, I stopped worrying about what I thought might happen, and focussed on the immediate material and passing each exam as it came. I never regretted the effort I put into maths skills development, and I never will.
Overcoming what you might think about your own abilities, and what others might try to make you feel, may be the bigger issue here.
My advice Molly, would be do not give into your concerns. They will always be there, and they can be overcome. Do more of it to overcome the fear. Take maths coaching. Do whatever it takes. You will find it gets much easier once you develop a confidence that you can do it. Direct the drive of your passions into achieving good results.
Two things are certain: you will never truly know your limits unless you absolutely commit to achieving good results and; you will achieve tremendous insights through dogged, focussed persistence .. not only about the universe, but about yourself, also.
06-08-2011, 10:11 PM
Every journey no matter how far begins with a single step. Take your journey one step at a time. I will watch you pass me on the mountain.
07-08-2011, 04:20 PM
I am determined now, not to give up even if I have trouble.
I found Xelasnave's story very motivating and I plan on working harder in the next 2 years to make sure I get into that uni course.
at the end of the day, I will always be happy as long as I have my telescope out under the stars and a coffee in my hand.:thumbsup:
07-08-2011, 04:54 PM
You're more than welcome:)
If you have any questions or need help, just give me a buzz:)
08-08-2011, 12:38 PM
I am happy to hear your resolve:thumbsup:
One thing:).... just imagine your telescope is a large array in Chile and one of your staff brings you the coffee while you comptemplate the enormous signifficance of your latest discovery;).
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