View Full Version : Am I prepared well enough mathematically?

07-31-2007, 03:09 AM
I'm going to UC Riverside, not that highly ranked but as far as I can tell its pretty rigorous. I've always been a lot more comfortable with words and diagrams than math equations (GRE: 780 verbal, 730 math), so I'm not extremely confident in my mathematical ability.

I thought the math in undergrad economics courses was really easy. Before majoring in economics, I was in aerospace engineering, and I took a few math classes - multivariable calculus (B), and differential equations (A) were the highest ones. I took an intermediate linear algebra course this summer and got an A+. But when I took advanced calculus my last undergrad semester I had a hard time and ended up withdrawing from the course. I could have put more work into it than I did, but should I be concerned that I didn't grasp it easily? I mean I understand most of the basics, but a full, competent understanding eluded me.

I've also been studying Simon and Blume this summer, and I got about halfway through fine, but now I'm getting lost in the optimization section.

I have about one month before the beginning of math camp, and lots of free time. My plan is to continue S+B, start "A first course in optimization theory" by Sundaram, and try to get through a more advanced linear algebra book.

Am I going to have an unusually hard time in my first year with this preparation? Any suggestions on how I should prepare the coming month?

07-31-2007, 03:45 AM
Since you said you're more comfortable with intuitive explanations but are struggling to learn optimization - I would highly recommend taking a look at Dixit's "Optimization in Economic Theory", possibly as bedtime reading. It explains the intuition behind the math of constrained optimization very well, and would be an excellent supplement to help you learn constrained optimization. You should be able to pick up a copy for $20 or so. Amazon.com: Optimization in Economic Theory: Books: Avinash K. Dixit (http://www.amazon.com/Optimization-Economic-Theory-Avinash-Dixit/dp/0198772106)

I haven't used S & B myself, but from what I gather it should meet your needs well as prep for first year. The only type of math that (supposedly) isn't covered well in S & B but would be helpful to learn for grad economics is basic analysis. I hadn't taken a course in analysis before my MA at UBC, but used the following site to help prepare: IRA: Interactive Real Analysis (http://web01.shu.edu/projects/reals/reals.html)
In hindsight, it really was excellent preparation for me. The site was well designed pedagogically for a beginner to learn the basics of analysis. The basic concepts in analysis were used heavily in parts of our Micro course, and parts of analysis also underlie some of the dynamic optimization techniques used in Macro. Since you mentioned Sundaram, its chapter 1 is a good review of analysis as well but I found that website easier to learn the material from on the first go. I wouldn't worry about the advanced linear algebra; you aren't likely to use any linear algebra material not in S & B.

Of course you'll have to learn some more math in math camp and throughout the semester, but if you're comfortable with basic analysis and most of S & B (incl. constrained optimization) you should be in good shape.

I should mention that constrained optimization is the math that forms the backbone of economic analysis, so it's worth learning well (Dixit should help).

Good luck!

07-31-2007, 05:06 AM
I imagine you'll be fine. You've taken some upper level math classes and it seems like you did ok. I'm sure you'll have to learn a lot of math at UC Riverside, but I don't think you should be worried that you're not mathematically prepared. I know people in my schools PhD program who came in with less math than that and did well. And last but definitely not least, UC Riverside seems to have faith that you can handle it.

07-31-2007, 06:13 PM
Just keep doing what you're doing, mate. Working through Simon & Blue should be good preparation. I also agree with can_econ's recommendation of Dixit's book and the IRA web site.