View Full Version : Learning math / question for engineers

cbennett926

October 22nd, 2012, 09:15 PM

Hello,

I am currently a student at the University of Oklahoma, I am struggling with math and I was wondering how many others have had this issue and still able to succeed. Could it be me being bad at math, or a bad math student? I feel as though it's the second, I honestly have never learned how to study, ahhh but I digress, so the question is once again, can you learn math even if you have never been good at it before?

alan21276

October 22nd, 2012, 09:33 PM

I'm afraid to say that mathematics is an engineers most important tool.

I struggled with it during my mechanical design degree....more specifically fluid dynamics equations.

Now I specialise in water pumps.........so what I used to struggle with is now my strength.

My advise is to figure out which part you find most difficult and then go back to basics and try to re-learn in a way that you can understand.

Alternatively if you can afford to hire a good tutor then that might be worth a try.

Don't lose heart or give up, it will finally click and then it will all seem easier.

cbennett926

October 22nd, 2012, 09:36 PM

Agreed, I was taking Calculus, and did very poorly (failed) and I am now in College Algebra to relearn everything. It's really helping and I'm regaining confidence. I just have to find a proper way to study, apparently you can't just show up and listen :(

Smilax

October 22nd, 2012, 10:40 PM

you have to do the math.

get the past papers,

figure out how to do the questions for 2-5 years ago, last years paper is a guide to whats prob not going to be asked in detail

do each question 10 times untill you can do it without any reference but your brain.

pass!

Stovey

October 22nd, 2012, 11:43 PM

Hi. I recall first week of first year Calculus. The professor was demonstrating a simple problem, and I noticed that he replaced tan x with sin x / cos x (or something to that effect). I piped up and asked, how "he knew that", and he responded sarcastically that he knows because he graduated from high-school.

In other words, I was behind at math, but I caught up and succeeded.

For you, I would respectfully suggest learning how to learn. If there is a concept you do not fully understand, then it would be helpful to investigate the "first-principles", and try to understand. And with math, lots of practice and repetition is necessary.

mag1strate

October 23rd, 2012, 02:39 AM

I have a couple friends that were awful at math yet do amazing in all of their engineering classes. So all I can say is that you have to keep at it. It gets a lot easier (but more time consuming) as you near the end of your second year. KEEP AT IT!!

Chdslv

October 23rd, 2012, 10:30 AM

Hello,

I am currently a student at the University of Oklahoma, I am struggling with math and I was wondering how many others have had this issue and still able to succeed. Could it be me being bad at math, or a bad math student? I feel as though it's the second, I honestly have never learned how to study, ahhh but I digress, so the question is once again, can you learn math even if you have never been good at it before?

It is not that you are bad at maths, but it is your attitude--you are giving up, before trying.

Okay, let's do it this way.

You have few subjects, which are not related to maths. Choose 3 of them. Now, find time to study, say 2 hours. Find a place, which is silent, and take your music with you and your earphones. The Music must be soft. Have a timer/alarm clock with you (your mobile must be shut.)

Put the music on, choose the first subject unrelated to maths. Study it for 20 minutes. Whether you finished the subject or not stop after 20 minutes. Go for a walk, gaze at sky for next 10 minutes. Don't think of that subject at all. After the 10 minutes, start studying maths. 20 minutes study, stop, 10 minutes rest, no thinking of maths. Then the next subject, same procedure, and the next subject.

Once you finish go have a coffee or chat, or do something leisurely. Don't try to think of what you just studied.

The next day, start with maths, where you stopped, and randomize the next 3 subjects. Remember 20 study, stop, 10 minutes rest, don't think of what you studied, study the next. Do this for a week and let me know, how it went.

Do this with all your subjects. In a month's time, you'd be surprised how you remember everything! I have a lot of engineering behind me...:)

mastablasta

October 23rd, 2012, 11:29 AM

^^ good advice

i was good at solving difficult problems but the easy ones got me stumped. also not so good in logic department. somewhat mediocre. I was good in phisics (mechanics particulary and electronics). Also i loved chemistry and was quite good at is as well. History (particulary ancient era - Greek&Rome) & Psychology were my other "passions".

i really wanted to go study law. had more than enough points to enter.

in the end i went to study social sciences ... what a waste of potential.

looking back i think i should have gone with electrical engineering. i like to programme but my logic was porbably not that good to get me through uni. or at least it would have been painful experience.

sffvba[e0rt

October 23rd, 2012, 11:42 AM

Maths... *shudder*

404

Paqman

October 23rd, 2012, 02:45 PM

Don't sweat it. Maths is a skill, it can be learned. Just keep practising and apply yourself and you'll improve.

Most of what you'll do as an engineer is actually quite simple mathemtically. A good grasp of basic algebra and trig will be sufficient to solve a lot of stuff. The requirement to break out some calculus-fu is pretty non-existent in my experience, although I imagine some engineers are working in fields that do it all day every day. In your working life you'll probably find yourself doing a lot of the same stuff over and over, so you'll either get very good at it, and/or you'll have automated the process to some degree (or at least you should, if you call yourself an engineer!). All the really hardcore computational stuff like analysis of complex shapes and fluids is done by computers, although you do need to understand the principles to be able to verify the output of your models.

I was never particularly good a maths in school, but manage alright as an engineer. The fact that's it's practical applied stuff makes it more interesting than all the pure maths they'll make you wade through as a young 'un.

TL;DR: Keep trying, you'll be fine.

zombifier25

October 23rd, 2012, 03:00 PM

I'm studying Math major, but I lost a lot of interest in it mainly because of how it is taught. I'm still good at it though, just not as good as the "monsters" in my class :P

My advice: You should not study Math by heart, but you should learn the skills. If you can't do it, just see the solution (if any), or ask a friend, and learn from there. Don't pull your hair off, because frustration will kill you nicely.

Also, hire invite some friends over. They'll help tremendously.

And finally, don't get too worked up on it. You don't need to go very deep in Math, so just keep on going.

Swagman

October 23rd, 2012, 04:41 PM

I believe very few people are genuinely bad at mathematics. It's all to do with how the formulae is explained to them.

eg:

I changed (High) school every year. Now different schools start their subjects at different points.

At Cannington High I could not grasp Algegra and fumbled my way through it

Next year I changed Schools To Kalamunda High and..

"Oh Noes, that damn Algebra again"

But the Teacher explained it in a different way.. The penny dropped. (It all made sense) I must admit it's a REAL GOOD feeling to be better at something hard than your classmates.

I was absolutely hopeless at fractions (Get me out of here)

Fast forward 20 odd years and my (middle daughter) cam eup to me with her homework and asked me "Daaaaad, how do I do this"?

FRACTIONS !!!!!

"Nooooooooooooooooooooooo"

I had to be honest with her. "I was never any good at fractions darling. I can't even remember how to work them out"

And she then said " The teacher said we do this by that ..etc"

So I followed her formulae and did the sum.. Turned to the back of the book and checked the answer

Correct

"Must be a fluke" I thought

So I did some more. got them correct.. And more... Got them correct

DID THE LOT .. GOT THEM CORRECT

It was like a drug... GIVE ME MOOOOR

And it dawned on me.. I'm NOT a thicksh*t after all. Why didn't my teachers explain it to me like my (nervous) 15 year old daughter had ?

Of course I've not needed to do them since and subsequently forgotten how to do them again !! (4 years ago)

The point is... You need to have formulae explained to you properly.

I wont even say your state of mind matters because I was totally defeatist !!

You CAN do it !!

mips

October 23rd, 2012, 06:21 PM

Hello,

I am currently a student at the University of Oklahoma, I am struggling with math and I was wondering how many others have had this issue and still able to succeed. Could it be me being bad at math, or a bad math student? I feel as though it's the second, I honestly have never learned how to study, ahhh but I digress, so the question is once again, can you learn math even if you have never been good at it before?

Here's my take on it.

Math is something you have to understand, no amount of memorizing formulas etc is gonna help you. It's also not something you study like English. Thing is you need a good foundation, if you don't have a foundation you are fooked. With math you need all the knowledge you were taught from age 6 to 18 and understand it well going into university. Calculus is something we did from like grade 10 (out of 12).

Like someone else mentioned without maths you cannot do engineering, you will fail dismally. If it's any consolation I failed my first year maths courses, probably more due to me partying than studying.

Thing is once you understand maths and grasp the concepts it actually becomes 'easy'.

Wishing you all the best.

/stills shudders at the though of doing fourier transfoms on paper, let's save some trees instead.

cbennett926

October 25th, 2012, 03:10 AM

Well guys thought I would update on the progress and somethings going right, just ace'd my quiz today!

jpeddicord

October 25th, 2012, 03:26 AM

Well guys thought I would update on the progress and somethings going right, just ace'd my quiz today!

Congrats!

To add to what others have already said, if you're having trouble with your math courses (or any, really) pay a visit to your professors. Most universities require professors to have dedicated office hours for students to ask questions. And even if they don't, email your professor and ask when they're in their office.

I'm serious here -- professors & TAs get lonely. Go visit them, they'd love to help you out.

Finally, know the averages. I'm not encouraging you to slack off on math, because it's absolutely essential for engineering degrees. But know the relative grades others are getting and what you need to pass the class. Of all of the classes I've taken in the past few years, math has been curved the most often.

Out of curiosity; what kind of engineering are you studying?

WinterMadness

October 25th, 2012, 04:50 AM

when I graduated high school I didn't even know algebra, and I barely knew prealgrbra. I hated math and would avoid it at all costs. I eventually went to college where I had the support of professors who genuinely care about students, and because of it I was able to go far beyond algebra. I got a c in calc 1 and a b in calc 2 I'm taking a proof writing class now and I'm taking discreet math next.

anyone can get over math phobia.

standingwave

October 25th, 2012, 08:03 AM

Well guys thought I would update on the progress and somethings going right, just ace'd my quiz today!

Well done! Math is a discipline but it can be learned. No one emerges from the womb knowing how to do trigonometry. Just keep at and make use of online resources such as Khan Academy.

My story: I love math. I was probably the only kid in grade school who actually loved story problems because they actually gave math a purpose. I was fascinated that it could actually be used to solve problems.

Anyway, I took all the math my high school had to offer and off to university I went to study electrical engineering. Things were fine at first but integral calculus was a bit of a struggle. Then things got a bit easier with linear algebra, multiple variable calculus and then I ran into differential equations. Or perhaps I should say it ran into me. It was a struggle and I managed only a C, my lowest math grade in my life.

Anyway, the happy ending is that we engineers (and other disciplines) have ways to solve differential equations that reduce them to essentially algebra problems (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laplace_transform).

So keep at it. If you have the desire, you will get there.

cbennett926

October 25th, 2012, 07:53 PM

Congrats!

Out of curiosity; what kind of engineering are you studying?

I actually changed my major from Computer Science to Computer Engineering, I found I like to make things more than write things if that makes sense haha

jpeddicord

October 25th, 2012, 09:48 PM

I actually changed my major from Computer Science to Computer Engineering, I found I like to make things more than write things if that makes sense haha

Welcome to the club :)

I'm at a university (Ohio State) that doesn't differentiate between CS & CE; I'll have a degree in "Computer Science & Engineering". But regardless of which side you choose, there's going to be a lot of math involved that is relevant to software engineering.

For reference: you'll use a ton of linear algebra and statistics in a lot of higher-level CS/CE courses. If there are any math courses you really want to pay attention to, make sure you know those.

Zoot7

October 25th, 2012, 10:41 PM

In general I'd say stay away from engineering if you struggle with anything Mathematical, as you'll struggle again and again as you progress through it.

I did Electronic Engineering in college (I work as an Analogue Circuit Designer), and the Mathematics involved got particularly hideous at times. :P

standingwave

October 25th, 2012, 11:44 PM

I did Electronic Engineering in college (I work as an Analogue Circuit Designer), and the Mathematics involved got particularly hideous at times. :P

Yeah, no kidding. For example, this takes me back: http://youtu.be/TJgBEI3drUc

Remember wanting to kill your professor after making you solve circuits the hard way (convolutions and differential equations) before showing you a table of Laplace transforms and the easy way? I do.

Old_Grey_Wolf

October 26th, 2012, 12:27 AM

...before showing you a table of Laplace transforms and the easy way? I do.

LOL. I remember memorising formulas for calculating voltage and current through analogy circuits made of multiple components types. When I took Laplace, I wanted to strangle the professors for making me memorise those equations a year or two earlier. Why memorise the equations when you can use Laplace to derive them.

Old_Grey_Wolf

October 26th, 2012, 12:45 AM

I use statistics a lot in engineering. I do mostly software systems engineering these days.

For example, spec says that some function needs to be performed in 200ms. When you simulate the time to perform the function based on approximate real-world loads, you do not always get <200ms. Simulations show it can be done; however, at the expense of engineering hours that is magnitudes higher.

You can calculate the probability of meeting the number using statistics. Then you can negotiate with the person specifying the performance number and say, I can meet that number 100% of the time at a cost of $$$$, or I can meet the number 95% of the time with a standard deviation of X at a cost of $$, or I can meet the number 98% of the time with a standard deviation of X at a cost of $$$. Then ask which of the performance numbers are good enough considering the large cost saving?

Then, when testing the final product, you take measurements an use statistics to calculate and compare the results to the derived spec of 95% or 98% with X standard deviation.

pissedoffdude

October 26th, 2012, 05:45 AM

Everyone's different. People find some subjects "easy" depending on how interested they are in it. You probably aren't too fond of math and just want to get it over with for your degree requirements, so that'll make it a bit more difficult to learn since you don't totally want to learn to begin with.

In any case, you should check out PatrickJMT on youtube. He focuses mostly on computations, which is all you really need for engineering math. I found his explanations to be better than my professors and teachers (at least for Calc I and Calc II). If you need to take Calc III as well, I suggest the MIT lectures on Multivariable Calculus (also on youtube) and Paul's online notes, as Calc III was more conceptual when compared to Calc I and II's plug and chug.

By the way, if you're gonna have to take differential equations as well, try your best master the computations in Calculus, as it requires a lot of integrating.

And most importantly, don't get discouraged. If you're spending too much time on one problem, skip it and try it again later. If it's still giving you a problem, you can always find a step by step answer online (check chegg, or just google, or use wolfram alpha to get the answer and try to figure out how it was obtained). And don't be afraid to ask your professor for help. If he/she isn't too approachable, your school should have a tutoring center where you can get more help as well.

shreepads

October 26th, 2012, 08:55 AM

When in school I read Yakov Perelman's 'Maths Can be Fun' & 'Algera Can be Fun' (english versions) many times (a little sad wasn't it!) and it was all smooth sailing from then...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yakov_Perelman

http://www.amazon.com/Mathematics-Can-Fun-Yakov-Perelman/dp/B000W18X5Q/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1351238092&sr=8-6&keywords=yakov+perelman

http://www.amazon.com/Algebra-Can-Yakov-Isidorovich-Perelman/dp/4871877108/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1351238092&sr=8-3&keywords=yakov+perelman

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