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Do not enjoy math


mattbatson
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I've been lurking on here for a while and decided to finally post a question. Hopefully it is a question some others can relate to.

I'm in my late thirties and at a position where I can pick and choose whichever route I would like to take. Money is not so important as is just enjoying what I do.

I have always wanted to get into mechanical engineering. The stuff just fascinates me.

So, I enrolled with the local college to start taking the fundamental math classes (already have a B.A. in business). I'm taking trig right now, and not doing horribly, although it does require a lot of my time as I am no natural talent.

 

My point is, I really do not enjoy math. At all. I would really rather be doing just about anything other than math.

 

Is this going to be a problem? Is the average workday of a mechy spent with calculator in hand? I cannot even imagine memorizing all of the different functions that I've learned so far. And I'm not even to calculus yet.

 

Should I reconsider my choice and go for something else?

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You may want to consider mechanical engineering technology instead of the engineering proper. ME Technology is significantly more hands on and significantly less math-intensive. Though, make no mistake, any degree with "engineering" in it is going to require a fair amount of math and when you graduate you are going to be expected to know a fair amount of math by any potential employers. How much math is obviously going to depend on the job you take.

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In my particular field (chemical engineering, which sometimes borders on mechanical engineering) I do calculate all the time... but very often it's just simple stuff.

 

I am not solving differential equations day-in-day-out, although there are fields in chem. eng. where you need this every day. If you hate math, avoid process control systems. :) And obviously I had to struggle through the courses back at university.

 

The simple truth is that in chemistry, we often do not have sufficient data to even bother with the complicated formulas. It's all approximations and rules of thumb.

 

But if you even don't want to grab a standard calculator, then perhaps you're not in the right study.

 

As for memorizing functions - why memorize then when they're written down in a book?

I never understood the concept of memorizing - it's just not necessary since people learned how to print books :D

Besides, there are too many formulas and functions to memorize them all (imho).

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As for memorizing functions - why memorize then when they're written down in a book?

I never understood the concept of memorizing - it's just not necessary since people learned how to print books :D

Besides, there are too many formulas and functions to memorize them all (imho).

Amen!

 

The number of equations I have to learn on my course is ridiculous. When am I ever going to need to know off the top of my head the derivation of the Eyring equation?!

 

Some equations are worth knowing - but through practice, not rote learning.

 

(Off topic I know, but I thought I'd add my two pennies)

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I expect that in any area of engineering some mathematics is simply needed.

 

What I have always found is that the more you use something the more familiar you are with it and before long you can real it with little hesitation. So, all the equations you will need everyday you will remember and as for the rest as long as you know of them, you can find them in books.

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So here is a question.

Are we not to the point where engineers use software/computers to do most if not all of the math?

Are you guys really pulling out trig and calc books and calculators on a daily or even weekly basis? Cause that is kind of what it sounds like....

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So here is a question.

Are we not to the point where engineers use software/computers to do most if not all of the math?

Are you guys really pulling out trig and calc books and calculators on a daily or even weekly basis? Cause that is kind of what it sounds like....

 

Trig and calc books, no. Differential equations and thermo and mass and energy balances, yes.

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As for memorizing functions - why memorize then when they're written down in a book?

 

Sometimes you don't have time to look for the book or look the function up in the book when you do find the book. My hydraulic specialist test was a timed 4 hour test and I finished it in about 2 hours. It was also an open book test for the reason you mention. Some of the people taking the test that day were not fast enough with their books and didn't finish the test in the allotted 4 hours. They got to take it again.

 

I have also been with clients that are asking questions like, "how much power will I need for this or that..." and I have needed to calculate on the fly. I could have just told them I'd get back to them but my competition might impress them more with an immediate answer.

 

There are problems that I reserve for the desk with the time to use my reference materials but some problems need a faster response if possible and memorized formulas make that possible.

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I am primarily interested in mechanical engineering, and noticed there werent any mechy's responding here.

I met with a mech engineer yesterday at the local university while there talking to a counselor.

 

He told me that he works in the power generation field...specifically nat. gas turbine power plants with Siemens.

His department works with data acquisition, and monitors all of their turbines throughout the country from a computer screen.

He said that they recently had a project that required some trig. (sine waves from the data acquistion or some such). Apparently the department decided to buy Matlab (sp?), I think is what he called it, rather than having people bring their trig books to work.:rolleyes:

Apparently this program does all the math for you?

 

Anywho, it sounds like math is not a regular part of his day.

 

So, I've decided to continue moving in the direction of an engineering degree.

If I get to calc and hit a wall, I'll move into something else:eyebrow:

 

I have been thinking about AG college, of all things, and something along the lines of crop science.

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Matlab, Mathematica, Maple etc. will do some of the "donkey work" for you. However, computers are stupid and do exactly what they are told*. Thus, you will need some mathematical knowledge to know what to tell the computer to do.

 

I will use Mathematica for graphics, integration and derivatives, numerical and exact solutions to differential equations and some elementary algebra. Often it is for things I could do by hand, but as these things are usually a means to an end I would not want to devote much time to them.

 

 

 

*This is not to be confused with what you intended to asked it to do.

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I use mathcad, and have exactly the same issue as ajb pointed out. Also, it's pointless using a math package unless you know what you're doing, for example, interpreting the results.

 

As one example, you should be able to solve a 3 x 3 matrix by hand before you start using a math package to solve an n x n matrix.

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I am primarily interested in mechanical engineering, and noticed there werent any mechy's responding here.

 

Actually a hydraulic specialist is a mechanical engineer that specializes in hydraulic systems....

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I have continued my research into the original question and have met with a couple of other engineers.

One, who retired about 6 years ago, worked for Pratt and Whitney. She was primarily involved in CAD with regards to the jet engines.

I told her my issue with disliking math.

Her response was that she could not remember ever using any of the calculus et al that she learned in college.

I was kind of surprised and told her so. She responded with a comment along the lines of "the software does all the work" with regards to modeling and such.

 

Now, I also met an EE who has worked for Lockheed for over 20 years and he said that he DID use calculus and was forced to refer back to the college books during his first few years.

 

So far, ME's I've interviewed say no, and the EE says yes:eyebrow:

 

Maybe when I get to calculus I'll begin to fall in love with math?:rolleyes:

 

thanks for the comments.

I was just posting a follow up with some more info I've found.

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When studying electromagnetics I dreaded solving dyadic green's functions. I could not imagine ever working in a field where solving such problems would be part of my daily routine. Well I have worked as an electrical engineer 25 years. Much of that work has been solving microwave and RF (radio frequency) problems. I have never once even considered using green's functions. Most often I just use algebra and occasionally a bit of calculus. I thank the publishers of the "CRC standard mathematical tables." If you are ever going to be an electrical engineer, you better be very comfortable working with imaginary numbers, the convolution integral, and Fourier transforms.

 

I found that most of the mathematics I took when studying electrical engineering helped me visualize, in my mind's eye, the problem and its solution. Once I trained myself to do this the actual mathematics became less important in solving problems. So in electromagnetics the electric field always terminates perpendicular to a conductive surface and the magnetic field circulates (begins and ends on itself), is always parallel to a conductive surface, but at zero strength at the surface. Remember this and some basics about quarter wave resonance and you can visualize most practical electromagnetic engineering problems. To reach such a level of understanding however you will have to push Maxwell's equations around a piece of paper a time or two.

 

I imagine the same would be true in mechanical engineering. Fluid dynamics and heat transfer problems for example can be quite similar to problems in electromagnetics.

 

When using a computer, I use Matlab and sometimes Simulink. These programs generally take some real programming skill but they provide wonderful visuals. So once again your science and mathematical training teaches you to understand when the visuals produced by your programming are correct.

 

One last thing. At some point, most of us reach a personal limit. This may be based on personal innate ability, desire to know, or the satisfaction received at a given level of understanding and what can be done with it. Perhaps the fact that you do not enjoy math will limit the extent of your study. Perhaps you will stop at the undergraduate level. I stopped at the master's degree level. Others will receive a doctorate and continue studying. At each of these levels you will be pushed to your limits and have to study subjects you have little interest in. I had little interest in solving dyadic green's functions but solving them did help my overall understanding of electromagnetics. That's why each of these degrees means something. At the same time there is nothing wrong with understanding your own needs and abilities and stopping where you want.

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  • 4 weeks later...
Hello..

I am doing MBA in Finance and in that i hate one subject and its a Math, its really a very bad subject and also a boring man, i really do not enjoy math..

 

Surely before starting the MBA in finance you knew quite a bit of mathematics would be involved. You see it as a necessary evil of finance?

 

One thing everyone needs to accept is that mathematics can be a very hard subject and counter intuitive at times. It takes a lot of hard work.

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As for memorizing functions - why memorize then when they're written down in a book?

I never understood the concept of memorizing - it's just not necessary since people learned how to print books :D

Besides, there are too many formulas and functions to memorize them all (imho).

 

for real im no math wizard (yet) im also taking trig and one cool thing my teacher laid on us one day was that einstein once was asked to give his phone number and he didnt know it my memory, he said something like, "why would i bother filling my memory with something like that when i can always look it up"

 

i don't know, just thought it was cool

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for real im no math wizard (yet) im also taking trig and one cool thing my teacher laid on us one day was that einstein once was asked to give his phone number and he didnt know it my memory, he said something like, "why would i bother filling my memory with something like that when i can always look it up"

 

i don't know, just thought it was cool

 

Provided he knew where to look it up.

 

Many working scientists have said similar things to me. You don't really need to recall all the details, but you must know enough to realise what books or other resources can help you. And then you need to know enough so that they can help you.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...
I've been lurking on here for a while and decided to finally post a question. Hopefully it is a question some others can relate to.

I'm in my late thirties and at a position where I can pick and choose whichever route I would like to take. Money is not so important as is just enjoying what I do.

I have always wanted to get into mechanical engineering. The stuff just fascinates me.

So, I enrolled with the local college to start taking the fundamental math classes (already have a B.A. in business). I'm taking trig right now, and not doing horribly, although it does require a lot of my time as I am no natural talent.

 

My point is, I really do not enjoy math. At all. I would really rather be doing just about anything other than math.

 

Is this going to be a problem? Is the average workday of a mechy spent with calculator in hand? I cannot even imagine memorizing all of the different functions that I've learned so far. And I'm not even to calculus yet.

 

Should I reconsider my choice and go for something else?

 

 

Math do not require memorizing all the different functions. It just a matter of analyzing understanding. Don't think that you can't do it coz you can! Try to enjoy and love it.

Edited by swansont
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