Zeno

11-12-2010, 04:01 AM

A lot of people have the bare essentials (something in calculus, something in linear algebra, something in probability or statistics) covered and want to know which math classes to take from there. I have no inside info or even well formed opinions for what will get you in to schools. I'm also at a school that's maybe on the more mathematical side than many, so do take this with a grain of salt.

My (biased) opinion on preparing yourself for the first year:

Take the purest, most abstract math you can handle without setting yourself up to bomb. There's all sorts of useful specific knowledge -- analysis, probability, topology, and optimization first come to mind -- but I think the main value is the practice talking about math. I came into my program with more math background than other people, and I do feel it's made things a lot less stressful for me. However, every class has new material; having seen the specific topics before, while nice, can only help you so much. Get practice learning about abstract concepts, starting with technical definitions, and trying to get a sense of "what's going on" in a new-to-you subject. This is exactly what happens in first-year economics courses.

I'm not saying don't take real analysis. In fact it's my favourite non-econ subject. I'm just saying that if you're taking any abstract mathematics, you'll get most of the benefit. Also, the more the better. Mathematical thinking is a habit like any other, best built under prolonged exposure. The value isn't primarily derived from the content you learn, but rather from the habit of a mathematical style of thought.

My (biased) opinion on preparing yourself for the first year:

Take the purest, most abstract math you can handle without setting yourself up to bomb. There's all sorts of useful specific knowledge -- analysis, probability, topology, and optimization first come to mind -- but I think the main value is the practice talking about math. I came into my program with more math background than other people, and I do feel it's made things a lot less stressful for me. However, every class has new material; having seen the specific topics before, while nice, can only help you so much. Get practice learning about abstract concepts, starting with technical definitions, and trying to get a sense of "what's going on" in a new-to-you subject. This is exactly what happens in first-year economics courses.

I'm not saying don't take real analysis. In fact it's my favourite non-econ subject. I'm just saying that if you're taking any abstract mathematics, you'll get most of the benefit. Also, the more the better. Mathematical thinking is a habit like any other, best built under prolonged exposure. The value isn't primarily derived from the content you learn, but rather from the habit of a mathematical style of thought.