I hear a lot of kids say, “I don’t think I could be an engineer because I’m not good at math.” Yet these same kids have built go carts, figured out how to make things go boom, and have found ways to launch potatoes with incredible force. What they don’t realize is that it took a fair amount of engineering ingenuity to accomplish these tasks. More than the fear of crashing or blowing off a finger, they are afraid of the “math” that it takes to become an engineer.

Granted, a small percentage of graduate engineers will work in a R&D setting that will require high level math. However, the reality is that the vast majority of engineers that graduate will work in industry. If you look at what they do, day in and day out, you will find that they need to be very good at ** algebra**. You know, y = mx + b kind of stuff. Engineers get giddy with excitement the handful of times they get to use the TAN key on their HP-85 scientific calculator. Kind of makes me want to brandish my K+E slide rule with 22 scales.

“Wait… Did you say algebra?! So you’re telling me that the majority of math that

engineers do every day is the same stuff that I learned from Brother “Jumpin’ Joe” O’Meara my junior year of high school?”

That is exactly right. Engineering is not so much being good at math but ** more about having a passion for understanding how things work and interact.** Let’s take a parabola as an example… y = x

^{2}. Boring, right? Why should you care?

What if your teacher asked “Do you have Dish TV?”… Then went on to explain that your dish collects radio waves from outer space. No matter where those radio waves hit the surface of the dish, they all bounce to the same point (the focus). That point has an amplifier that can take those very weak signals and present a signal that allows you to watch the Rams beat the Bears on national TV. Congratulations! You just learned a ** practical** reason to care about parabolas!

Thomas Edison did poorly in his math classes in school, but went on to patent over 1000 inventions. In engineering, what matters more than love of math is being a person that wants to understand how things work, likes to take things apart, and likes to put things together to make the world a better place. If you look around your garage and think “I can make an automated robot that takes the trash out from these miscellaneous pieces and parts,” you might make a great engineer. *Don’t let the fact that you don’t see the redeeming social value of calculus get in the way of becoming an engineer!*

**Yes, in engineering school the math sequence can be intense. Some of the classes will kick your butt. **** Suck it up!** Every one of us have taken classes in which we “toughed it out.” For me, one of those classes was Financial Accounting. I still couldn’t tell you a credit from a debit, and I have an MBA. Loved Finance. Hated Financial Accounting.

**Like anything in life, there will be things you just have to survive to achieve the goals you have for yourself.**

*Still had to pass it to cross finish line.***Don’t let a couple of pesky math classes stop you from being a**

*great*engineer!John is a Principal Electrical Engineer and the President of EPIC Systems, Inc. As a young boy, he too had a passion for understanding how things work. Today, his engineering and fabrication firm builds pilot plants and modular process systems, integrates automated packaging systems and machine vision systems, and builds custom machinery for manufacturers around the world.

Written in collaboration with Eric Coale.

Great blog, John – Giving young kids confidence that they can achieve something great is key. You don’t have to be the best at everything to achieve your goals; you need confidence, discipline and perseverance.

Thanks for this article it has encouraged me

to take engineering

Hey guys! i am in only my 2nd semester of EE. I have not been to school in over 25 years or longer, but hate math. How do i learn the math for this class and pass it, quitting isnt a option. however i have never had this type of math im fustrated.

I’m resigning from a full time job to study MechEng over a period of 4 years…I’ve been out of school for nearly 10 years and was an average student in math.

The problem is…I CAN’T REMEMBER A SINGLE THING😮

Google Alex’s math. You can do it at home. It will quickly diagnose your weaknesses and help you inprive without wasting a lot of time.

I want to be an engineer but I’m not good in mathematics I’m 20 years old and I didn’t understand math, now please tell me is it too late now for me to learn math? I’m currently a student and I want to take the risk to become an engineering student and someday an engineer. Please help me.

Very true. Most engineers will never touch high level math unless they are in an R&D setting. Also, good engineers are generally logical thinkers.

Thank you so much I am taking calculus as a junior in high school and i am not doing so well right no. But, my my dream since a little kid was to become an engineer and you article really inspired me.

Great blog, I am going to have my son peeps read it.

I thought your true calling was to be a M.D, but now i

am thinking teacher. P.S. I have worked with John on

engineering projects from Rocket sleds for Boeing to

designing a factory to make chili,and the clients have

always been thrilled with results. JL

I couldn’t agree any much more. I love to take apart electronics like my Xbox, built model jets as a hobby when I was younger, go to an Aviation technician school while still in high school, and my one Calculus class has me in that rock in a hard place. It’s tough. I’m starting to doubt myself that I’m capable of even handling higher mathematics just to be awarded that golden diploma that says you’re qualified to build and think. Reading up on these articles I’ve been given a new sense of hope, maybe I may not be good at math now, maybe not tomorrow, but for sure I can the day after tomorrow if I just work hard enough. I suppose it’s one of those things you have to conquer in order to do what you love. Heck, I felt like I was on top of the world when I use to get mathematics correctly and ace all my quizzes, home works, and tests. Calculus is a struggle but maybe it’s because I have too much on my plate right now. The time to just sit down and clear my mind isn’t there anymore. Stress is becoming a major factor in my life right now. Honestly, I do need more soul searching to see if Engineering is for me and I would love to shadow an Aeronautical Engineer just to make sure this is what I want. I think I need time and patience. That and money because college is expensive, haha. Thank you John R. Schott, your words of wisdom and knowledge are uplifting.

Jefferson,

You sound like you should be an engineer. Maybe to get through the calc sequence in college, you will need to take a little lighter load. Or, take it during the summer when you can concentrate on one class.

I recommend you find a GOOD tutor. Find someone who can explain things to you in a way that you can understand. If someone ever explains something to you that you don’t understand, ask them to explain it again. You’ll be able to tell pretty quickly if you have the right tutor. If not, politely thank them and look for a new tutor.

Bottom line… MAKE IT HAPPEN, DUDE !!! You da man!

Call me if you need some encouragement.

314-845-0077

314-845-0077

Learn the fundamentals, then you will never be lost. I used to hate thermodynamics till i found a little red book that explained it for beginners. Then it was enjoyable, it felt like I was applying math to real world problems, not just lost trying to memorize formulas..

Im scared of the maths load, I have just been offered a place in engineering, high school is a distant memory, So my strategy for now is learn Algebra, Trig and Geometry.. then start calculus and find beginners books.. like introduction to integral calculus…theres a book precalculus mathmatics for calculus.. then i will hit the mainstream calculus and books tailored towards engineering problems…

Im not happy about it.. but this way it will be enjoyable… I dont want to be memorizing formulas..

what book is that HEV since i am going for my first year i might this book s help. and thumb up to mr schott

Calculus books are by Stewart, Calculus and pre calculus. Great text.

“Engineering mathematics through applications” is less concise but worth a read as well

I also bought a while ago, thomas and finney “Calculus and analytic geometry” plus my old mathematics for the biological sciences book is a good book.

The issue of math comes up often with employers, students and educators. Mr. Schott is right on target. There is no doubt that algebra is the key. I’ve always felt that it is as much about the equal (=) sign as it is about the actual numbers. Once students start to think about how one set of circumstances are dependent and related (=) to another set of circumstances they are more than “half way home”. The other subject I am super supportive of is Physics. Physics is all about how things around you really work. Physics can also be even taught without numbers to get young folks interested. You can always add the numbers later.

I’d enjoy speaking with you or Mr. Schott further on any of these topics. I am usually at the office number most days from 9-3.

Thank you Mr. John. This article gave me some confidence. I flunked at maths and I am still not sucking it up, I guess I will have to start soon. I suck at calculus and now I have started hating it. Your article gives me a renewed hope in myself. Thanks again!

P.S.-I am a student from India.

Im very interested in majoring in electrical engineering but yes my only thing stopping me is the whole math part it puts me down knowing im not so great at math …. Im recently a senior in highschool and about to graduate but im so confused wether or not to pursue my dream of been an engineer what do you think?

Hey how did it go if you see this message what did you go into and how is it?

I sucked at math. This is true story.I even sucked at fractions, it takes weeks for me to find the LCD.

I took a removal exam in Integral Calculus 3times. Almost failed Diff Calculus as well.

Now,

I’m a software engineer at Lexis Nexis.

I was an A student in high school, but was horrible in advanced algebra even though I applied myself. I went into the service and have been away from classes for four+ years. So it was something that concerned me greatly in an aeronautical field where I’d like to eventually become an industrial engineer, to think that I might not be able to manage the mathematical course studies. I may very well give it a shot due to this and similar input I’ve received.

I just wanted to say that I am a senior in high school and I’m considering majoring in Civil/ Environmental engineering. I’ve done a lot of thinking and realized that I’ve always loved building things and the only thing that’s in my is my “okay” math skills. I’m very nervous for the Calculus and other math I will have to take in college but this article certainly gives me confidence that I will be able to succeed.

Thank you

it was really fantastic!!! first i decided to drop the engineering idea, but your speech is soo influential.

thank u soooooo much.

This was very encouraging to hear. I never had patience for an education as a teen but when I was a sophomore I found a passion in an electrical trades class my high school offered. I’ve been working in the trade since I graduated three years later. I’m now 25, working as a maintenance electrician with an obsession for automated machinery. I’ve been considering going back for some kind of electro-mechanical engineering degree but my fear of math has shunned my dream of giving more to society and also myself. After reading this, I’m inspired to enroll asap and one day achieve the title of an EE. and hopefully not have to sit behind a desk adding numbers all day…

I am very interested in building things right since I was a little boy, but the problem is I find It difficult to understand logic or theory oriented subjects (physics, maths and chemistry) . I struggle with it in secondary school, and I’m currently studying computer engineering in a polytechnic. My friends always encourage me to be an engineer cuz I help built , troubleshoot a lot of things that even experts are unable to do. I always spend a lot of time reading but I always feel like I’m missing something so I decided to take some personality tests and the results is always INFP. But I couldn’t afford to live my life without creating things with my hands cuz I really luv it. Please I need help.

Hi im jemimah sawdagar , I want to be an engineer but my doubt was im not even great and good in math my cousins said that im stupid to be a engineer there always said to me you suck it up , you dream will fool you ,

You’re a genius anyway , that was my cousins always said to be but im not affected so much im just afraid if I can be a engineer someday thank you it inspired me ..

I will be an engineer someday that my lifetime dream I know i’m weak not genius and smart not talented but

I will study hard to be successful in my dream ,, i hope someday there not even saying to me that im study I want encouragement not a advice that will full me down

Dont be afraid dream high .

All these comments are so helpful, thank you all. I’ve always wanted to do engineering, but the math in it seemed so intimidating, but, now thanks to you guys I’m giving it a shot.

i love technology and it is my passion to invent but i suck at math. I wont give up on becoming my dream.

I am reading this two days before I am about to resit a first year calculus exam for mech eng. I have poured so much time into studying for this exam and I still feel woefully unprepared. Your article and all these comments, particularly Jefferson’s are a great comfort to me because I know I’m supposed to be an engineer as I have great mechanical aptitude and a natural ability for figuring out what makes stuff tick but I have an inherent fear of maths, which hopefully I will be able to overcome someday in order to pursue my dream

This was such a confidence booster! I am a non-traditional student and am taking college algebra right now. I just failed my first test in algebra. I was a terrible high school student that ended up dropping out of high school. Now I am 35 and on a mission to become an engineer. I have been told by several instructors that my knowledge is sufficient to be able to succeed, but it seems like such a daunting task. Any other words of encouragement would be greatly appreciated. By the way I did good on my portion of the test dealing with distance and slope. y=mx+b, formula for finding slope and y-intercept. I am a very hard worker but it just seems like all of the info in Algebra seems to get jumbled together by test time. Any advice would be excellent. Thanks!

I thank you for shearing this information with us, anytime I pull things apart or go in depth in explaining how a particular thing works I get overly excited. During high school I was always the top in my mechanical engineering class, I even won an award for Mechanical Engineering Student of the year. The problem is I despise math, I try my best to understand but it gets frustrating at times. Right now I am finishing up my diploma in Mechanical Maintenance where I will further my studies in the U.S as a mechanical engineer, but all I am hearing is MATH, MATH,MATH. I am at the point of choosing a different field of study, I don’t want to give up on my dream that easily.

Thank you so much for this article. I get A’s in all my classes….except for math. I bust my ass and get c’s and a fair share of d’s. I know I can be an engineer but the math piece makes me want to quit. Thanks you for this encouragement!!!

Yeah I know how u feel…I have the same problem

Yeah, surely, go into engineering if your math skills are not very good. Who cares if all the classes u will be taking are math based? Graduate with a 2.5 gpa and join the army of recent graduates that are desperately looking for at least some kind of job. Why would someone hire a sucker like you if they can hire a more successful student for the same money?

Brian –

We have actually hired engineering graduates with lower GPA’s. If you have a lower GPA but can demonstrate a lot of hands-on experience, sometimes the experience outweighs the book smarts. Math is taught in school, yes, and engineering theory, but some of the intuitive skills required to make a great design or build a machine to solve a unique problem, are not taught by a book.

You should still do all you can to gain the math skills, but just because you aren’t as talented in math as you are at electronics, or understanding mechanics, or one of many other aspects of engineering, doesn’t mean you can’t be an engineer.

You have to demonstrate a passion and a talent for some areas that apply to engineering, but you don’t have to be highly talented in ALL the areas.

I thank you so much for writing this article because I am 14 and have really been interested in engineering and I can put together computers and I really want to become an engineer but I hate math…

This article has inspired me though.

THANK YOU

This article just saved me from hating myself

i already have so much stuff that i want to build from a flying car (not that stupid thing of the UK), a hoverboard using air pressure, holographic projectors and tablets and i have everything planned out but people say i cant do it

I’m barely an eighth grader and I don’t know if I should actually be an engineer but people say you need to be really great at math. And that kind of scared me because I suck at math… Im average to always getting a “b” on my math grade. Not so quick, I still believe I can do better in math, But this article has definitely given me some encouragement.

Hi,

Thanks for the encouraging words,

at least lm not alone in this world. My dream is to be a recognized engineeer.

I failed mathematics but l have more than 6 years experience in supervisory within laboratory field.can anyone out there help me to study engineering without considering my Mathematics grade at O-LEVEL?

All lm asking is a chance.

Regards,

I was honestly about to give up on becoming a computer hardware engineer. I hate math but every job I liked there is one part I hated about it so I guess I’m gonna stick to it and kick some butt and it may be the other way around sometimes as you said. Thank you for the confidence and if it helped me it helped others. I am in 10th grade already taking a cert test for web design and other thing later this year. I love creating things especially with a team cause I like combining peoples amazing ideas into one unimaginable one . I can’t wait to create what one day will be in everyone’s computers all over the world. Believe it.

I was terrible at math in high school. After I graduated I became a pilot and started competing in long range shooting. At that point I became pretty good at it. After I was furloughed I decided to try going to school for engineering. As long as I was teaching myself I found math very straight forward and logical but the way everyone teaches it is so unintuitive that the instruction was useless. I think a lot of people only struggle with math due to the way it’s tuaght, memorization over intuition does not make a good mathematician.

Yes, the way the majority of lower division (and at many schools, upper division) mathematics is wrong.

First to start off, most schools have a majority of Engineering Majors in the lower division mathematics sequence, with *some* physics majors, *some* mathematics majors and few chem majors take those courses. So the schools cater to the engineering majors and make it rote learning. The texts I saw mentioned above is all about rote learning. Look at the material covered at the equivalent to High School in Germany or Russia. We don’t teach Math, we teach a tool with rote learning and computation skills filled with tons of explanations of poor applications, lots of colorful pictures, and no rigor.

Just like a physics class teaches physics, a math class should teach…math. That means: studying change, structure, shape, abstraction, logic, and some other ideas; it means studying computation, yes, but we only need our students to do computations on relatively simple problems to show they understand the technique, the rest can be done on a calculator; we need to teach them numerical problem solving- something few students ever see in math, that it doesnt get the right answer; they need to study discrete math including logic and probability; yes, even in introductory courses we need to be using proof methods (not to the extend of an upper division math course of course though); we need to teach applications, ideally in classes oriented for certain majors but teaching the same material at the same rigor like a business/econ calc sequence and a physics/engineering sequence; and we need focus on the intuitive understanding as that is critical.

It is sad how many high school students can get a 5 on either AP Calculus exams and not be able to explain *what calculus studies* or what a limit actually is, let alone simple epsilon-delta proofs (yes, simple). In high school math, I always though I was bad at math because we would spend a week on a topic that I though I understood in the first 30 minutes of the lecture…which it turned out to be right but all that self doubt and getting confused with all the extra information and poor pedagogy made me “bad at math” (which is something that I don’t let my students say, because if you know how to speak and know grammar, than you know logic, which means you can certainly learn math.

Regarding my last statement, if you look at European Math studies, that don’t, how should I say…coddle? the students. They also adopt modern, well researched and proven methods that are far better at teaching math like using “flipped classrooms” or SI sessions or student groups for problem solving. Also, our country seems to dislike it when students find a way to solve a problem that was not the exact way the teacher taught them (I recall solving a system of linear equations when I was young, as I had sort of saw the pattern and stumbled upon elimination as my technique instead of substitution, I got the write answer, correct algebra, but got an F on the quiz because “we weren’t taught that yet”). We don’t treat Math as a subject. We also don’t teach it in the right order starting in High School to be sure, and definitely in the wrong order in the typical math prereqs for STEM majors. Why teach vector calc and differential equations which need linear algebra…before teaching linear algebra? I had a french foreign exchange student who thought AP Calculus was a required class for graduation, as he had taken it in his junior year. I think the second problem, along with the teaching of Mathematics, is not treating as its own subject. Its like teaching only logic in an introductory philosophy course, no body would allow that? We allow our math courses to get watered down for engineering majors who, if they cant pass the math courses we have in college right now with A’s and B’s, are likely not getting A’s and B’s in Physics and that all is a matter of studying. All schools now days provide free tutoring.

I agree with the author that Engineers do not use math on a daily basis, to a degree. He has not worked with many IEOR or Signals/Systems engineers I presume or CFD engineers, let alone a engineering physicist who are certainly not all confined to R&D. They certainly need to know the intuition of the mathematics, along with understanding the course as their upper division courses will cover even more math or expect them to self teach them the math needed. On top of that, understanding the Mathematics will allow them a deeper understanding of Computer Science and Statistics, both topics becoming essential for all engineers, and will definitely not hurt to understand very well even right now.

When I read it, wanna hug you so strong! Because all is true, BUT, look my life example, today I’m 23years old. Since 2012 work and study engineer, I don’t very good with math, all jobs I ever say a solition for problens, make a lot of products, I have a lot of good thinks, but i neever cam calculate if one suspension car will resist or not, but I can graduate and keep drawing with Solidworks my inventions.

Sorry my bad english.

Math is the whole reason I choose political science over mechanical engineering. I like science but I just can’t process math. Failed introductory algebra 3 times before giving up. Now I’m working on getting into law school.

This was an excellent confidence booster for me. I am currently a Junior in high school, undergoing all the stress with exams and APs. I am decent at Math, but will probably fall from my (non existent) pride. I have been told by some that I am not good enough to be an engineer because of my math skills or because of my gender. A girl engineer to some sounds ludicrous. I am fascinated with chemistry, machines, metals, and electronics. I very much would love to become a chemical engineer, and to make products that can be used to help people. I thought about just being a chemist, but I thought I’d take on the challenge of being an engineer. I hope that in the end I will become one (thanks to this I feel a little more confident). Thank you so much!

Yes I am having the same early- mid life crisis. I’ve just completed my 2nd semester of my junior year with a Big Bang because I actually started thinking about how I need to set goals and challenges that seem impossible , but also achievable (if that makes sense because literally AnYTHING we set our minds to is possible- if we truly start to believe in ourselves). I’ve always told myself since elementary school that I wasn’t good at math so why try in it, which resulted in making low c’s in math all of my life & even in the 1st semester of my junior year. Seeing how I over came many challenges my 2nd semester of junior year, made me wish I had math during my 2nd semester. Since I’ve always told myself I wasn’t good at math, I’ve just tried to focus on healthcare careers, such as dentistry- specifically pediatric dentistry. My interest in life and career choice started to take an unfamiliar path as of this summer (literally right now). I started taking many career tests and even tried to talk to some physics b/c I felt that helping people w/ their health wasn’t really want I wanted to do, therefore I was having trouble finding who I am and what career was best for me. I may sound like a bad person in a way b/ c I don’t like to help people in that way, but that’s who I have become now- it seems so in a matter of a MONTH! Now I want an orginizational career. I’ve looked at many careers over the month and I think in some way I’m still lost. I don’t want a career that’s based on math, but what business career ISNT based on math?!

I have this fantasy in my mind of working at some big company or firm doing some type of administrative job that pays well over $70,000, but what administrative career could that be b/c most admin. careers get payed between $40,000- $65,000. I’ve also had the fantasy of wearing pencil skirts, heels, and dressy slacks w/ Oxford button downs, working in my own office or cubicle and turning it into a personal space (I love to do DIY stuff from Pinterest). I’ve talked to my grandpa about my interest in admin., but he shot me down quickly saying many people he knows that do admin work, don’t have jobs. That honestly scared me and I began to feel helpless again b/c he’s the one who’s going to help me through college, so I feel like I have to not only find something enjoyable for me, but I also feel I have to meet my grandpa’s standards. I don’t like it when people tell me I can’t do something, so I’m determined to STILL pursue a career in admin. Today I came across Human Resources careers. It’s interesting and they get to work in a business company or anywhere really, but math concerns me. I’ve heard statistics is good to know when pursuing this career, but we were supposed to have learned statistics my 1st semester in my junior year, but as I said before I made a low C. How am I supposed to handle the situation now?

We have already chosen our senior schedules: 1st semester: EMT, Chemistry, Work Based Learning (at elementary school), & Lit Honors. 2nd semester: Work Based Learning (same location), Econ, Am/Dm (math chosen by my counselor based off of previous math grades), & Art 3. I’m in deep waters now. I haven’t completely decided to become an HR, but I realize I have to change most of my classes. I was thinking that since I’ve already taken a intel to Business & Intro to Digital Technology(both A’s) my freshman year (my brain might have been telling me something) & I could sign up for the 2nd and 3rd business class. Then maybe I could still keep awork Basedvlearning b/c it takes time to get accepted & I already am, so maybe I could just do some admin. Work at the elwmentary school’s office (if available). Maybe I could get back into pre calc. Do you think I would need pre calc? Please help me sort out my thoughts.

I’m an incoming senior high school student this year, and I’ve been deeply thinking about becoming an engineer since my freshmen year. I’ve always been really good at math, but I can’t say that I’m a genius at it. The thought of becoming an engineer really gives me this good vibe, but I’m always concerned about how difficult the math part is going to be and how I might make it to becoming an engineer. I’ve taken Physics my freshmen year and have taken AP Physics my junior year, and it really became my favorite class. However, I still have difficulties understanding concepts once I took AP Physics since a lot of what we learned did not stay solid in my brain (maybe because I haven’t taken AP Calculus yet and a lot of what we learned in AP Physics had a lot of Calculus problems). I’m going to take AP Calculus my senior year and I don’t know how I feel about it. It’s scary in my situation since I’ve always been good at math but they seem to be the basic math skills I learned in Advanced Common Core and Algebra 1. AP Calculus seems like a tough one. However, after reading this article, I kind of have some weight lifted off my shoulders knowing you don’t necessarily always have to do the most difficult things to become something you want to pursue in. I love science and math.

Thanks for the article!

Thanks for building up confidence in me. I am studying overseer in mechanical engineering . I love this subject. I am always curious to know how things work. But there’s a BIG BUT. I am seriously horrible in mathematics.. These algebraic equations are killing me what should I do.. Although I pratice I can’t…

Which course does not have mathematics in engenering?

Whew! Glad I found your blog. Thank you so much for clearing that up! Math is not my strong suit and after reading this, I feel more confident to pursue an education in mechanical engineering. As soon as I read Calculus as a math class prerequisite, I shriveled a little. But just as you said, tough it out!

Thank you!

Thank you,

I had almost given up hope of doing engineering even though I’ve always wanted to because my teacher said my expected grade for gcse would be a B or C (which is no where near enough to get into a good university) and that doing maths for A levels would be out of the question. I have decided to study really hard and go for it no matter what my teachers say and advise me. You made me realise that it’s not the maths alone that matters and that no matter what I tell myself, I do have what it takes to be a bio medical engineer and if I want it as much as I know I do, when the time is right I will do everything it takes to get into ucl (university collage London) which is the university of my choice.

For most courses (exceptions being things like medicine and law) most UK universities do not care about GCSEs as long as you meet the minimum requirements such as English and maths. They care about the A-level or equivalent.

I got offers from UCL, Manchester and Newcastle. I only had two grade Bs and four grade Cs at GCSE. I was lazy in school. I also flunked my AS levels the first time… I did an Access course at a local college a few years later.

Inspiring

Thanks

Does this apply to, say, astronomy as well? I’ve gotten into one of the best universities in the world for physics, engineering, and math for their physics and astronomy program. I, however, suck at math. Okay here’s the thing, I never know what my teacher’s looking for.

I can solve problems.. but not the way she wants them to be solved. :/ I’ve been working hard and teaching myself and I’ve aced the last couple tests but my mark isn’t very high (mid 70s) and it scares me because of the nature of physics. I love physics though, a lot actually.

I felt so down about my inability to do math and I legit sat down with my physics book and sobbed over it. I like physics enough to work my butt off for it – it’s what I want, but I’m scared of accepting that offer. Being one of the best universities, I know they’re going to push their students harder than other universities for the same program.

How am I supposed to make it through that when I can’t even get through high school math :/ I don’t want to make the wrong decision and ruin my future, we just don’t have the money to let me do that. I’m not sure what to do :(. Is passion a good enough reason to pursue something?

I dont hate math, I actually love it, its just that the way we are taught it makes it seem tedious and boring.My math teacher is super smart so she expects us to understand stuff right away and never really, completely wants to teach. She was teaching us rates of change and she just read our notes. I didn’t understand anything, everyone else did. So,I went to my physics teacher and he gave us a lesson on rates of change (with only me paying attention, everyone else wanted him to stop but he kept going cause I asked him to lool) and he related it to calculus and derivatives and suddenly everything we’d been doing in physics and the rates of change unit thus far, made sense.

As weird as it sounds, I felt enlightened actually, it was great. Only one simple lesson out of many from calculus, but just the way I was taught changed a whole lot for me. I’m scared that if this doesn’t happen for me in university, I’ll be doomed.

Hello John, I have a BSc in Mathematics and Statistics but have always wanted to study Mechanical Engineering. Would I be on the right path if I take up an undergraduate study in Mechanical Engineering and then proceed from there? If no, what do you advice I do? I need your honest opinion and suggestions as I do not want to lay on my dying bed, cursing myself for not fulfilling my dreams.

Thank you.

Thank goodness I found this site, I build things, from airplanes to study lamps and I really want to be an engineer but my math skills are saying the exact opposite,with this unique article I think my passion and esteem for aerospace engineering has just been emanated and boosted. Thanks a lot for this article. Ouuh I am a high school graduate here in Nigeria!

Your use of Edison is excellent. Because Edison couldn’t do the math he was unable to grasp what Teska, who could do the math, was telling him: the future of electricity was AC, not DC.

*(Tesla).

I have failed one of my higher math courses and I asked myself if Engineering was really for me, then I ended up changing my course in a more scientific field, while on my stay I felt like it is still not for me and now I’m planning to go back to Engineering which is I think way was ‘too good to be true’ for me. But I wanna know why God has made me choose it from the very first place. and thanks for sharing this blog, I appreciate that no math can ever stop you from being an engineer as long as you work intelligently and put your very Trust in God!

I’m so inspired by this. I’m a high school graduate planning to study electrical engineering in China, I’m not good at math but I know now that if I read hard, pray and try my best I’ll achieve my dream

What if you’re bad at mental math?

Having spent a significant amount of time around engineers, it seems they tend to be human calculator-types who think you’re kind of dumb if you can’t instantaneously solve math problems on the spot.

This seems like a potential problem.

Great article. I almost choked up at the end.

Motivation is a wonderful tool but students still have to study the math to pass. Where do we find help for them and where do we obtain the little ‘red book’ ?

Wow that was a motivational scenario story that will encourage me to strive more, Thanks.

thanks man for this blessing advice that you give.

It is really inspirational.

Now, if I had this blog post fifteen years ago while my teachers were influencing my young mind that I’d never be “good at math”, I’d have probably spit in their eye and tried anyways.

Still, it’s never too late as they say, and though I’m enjoying my liberal arts major and the work that it gets me (actor/novelist), I’ve never been able to quench the love of science and engineering. Always loved taking stuff apart and putting it back together. I may not “get the math”, but I’m apparently rather intuitive for it if I’m able to give my friends with degrees a run for their money. Maybe I’ll go back and take some courses. Might help with my speculative fiction at the very least.

John, your article has truly inspired me. I am getting back into school this fall and have been trying to decide on a major. I have felt drawn toward engineering, but have been hesitant because math is not my strong suit. Your article has given me the courage I need to pursue my dream. Thank you for taking the time to write this article.

This article really encouraged me.

I’m about to be a high school graduate soon and of course there’s the building graduation pressure of going to college right after. I’ve always saw myself pursuing art and/or theatre, but recently my intrigue for biomaterials was rekindled. Now I’m contemplating going into bioengineering instead. It’s a growing field with a lot of potential to help people in a way I find intriguing and innovative.

However, I’ve heard about the math load and being decent in math, (when I completely understand a math concept, formula, and what not then I can easily solve equations and problems. But when I’m lost on a concept, formula, and what not, it’s all Greek to me, lol) that sort of lowered my confidence.

It made me think that maybe the academic load is too much for someone like me. Maybe I should go into another major I don’t like just for the ease and pay rate and end up hating my career. Maybe I won’t be able to succeed in a career like this, surrounded by math wizards. Especially since I have a friend who got a full ride scholarship to go to China to learn engineering– I mean, he’s a like a literal, genius, lol.

But you know, I’m the sort of person that believes that anything is possible if you give 100% dedication and 110% effort. So it is possible to overcome this math problem, lol. This article and supportive comments really helped so I thank you for that.

Also, can someone tell my why the bioengineering/bio medical engineering career choice gets so much flak (based on articles and comments I’ve seen from other engineers)? Is it bad that I want to pursue this?

I was so afraid of math. I knew in highschool that I definitely wouldn’t pursue a career in it. I passed highschool algebra with a c- and that is only because I harassed my teacher for extra credit and extra help. Anyway I started pursuing a degree in civil engineering about a year and a half ago. Nine years after highschool. What inspired me to believe I could do it was engineers posting online that if you work hard you can do it. So I just passed Calculas this summer with a b-. It’s still just the tip of the iceberg but with hard work I’ve just passed my fourth college accredited math class. By the way I started off my college career was with a c- in algebra and a c- in college algebra. I also dropped college algebra the first time around (it was accelerated terrible decision) then retook and passed it. The trick is break your degree up in chunks (or else you’ll hyperventilate), pass the class or fail take it again and pass it. Why not possibly fail at something with a huge pay off rather then succeed at something that isn’t what you wanted or is not fruitful. Remember to give yourself credit you are not in highschool you do things purposely now. I have one daughter and I am a women(don’t know if that helps anyone) and I do have supportive friends and family (if you don’t surround yourself with with goal oriented positive people). I know I rambled on but this is everything I would have wanted to hear.

Thank you

inspiring

Thank you sir for such an inspirational writing.It really give rebirth to my dead dream of becoming a machanical engineer. My dream was dead for people telling me that you cant study ME , because you are not good at math, but your writing has encouraged so much that all fears and negetive thinking of studing ME have gone far away. Thank you again sir.

You say this, but I have to pass 6 courses in in higher level mathematics. Calculus 1-4, differentials, and Linear algebra. I struggled with math throughout school and hate attending college because of how much I do not understand in my courses involving higher level math.

thanks for the inspiration ! this will really help students get their confidence up to get into engineering. If they find it difficult they can always depend on us for help with their assignments @ https://www.goassignmenthelp.com.au/online-assignment-help-australia/

I’m not sure how old this article is but I’m leaving this comment Jan 31, 2018. My daughter is currently studying engineering and is ready to drop out. While this article may be correct in the fact that you don’t really use the high level math in day to day engineering, you can’t even apply for internships in engineering without a 3.4 gpa. The online applications literally block you from applying. And if you struggle with math you’ll never have that gpa. Once you get a B or C in Calc 1, Calc 2, Calc 3, and Diff Eq., you may as well apply for a liberal arts program because no engineering firm will interview you. Sorry to be so cynical. I’m just speaking from experience.

I suggest to students who are have forgotten math prior to precalculus to try to do online mathematics courses, there are many good websites. If that does not work, look up instructors at your local community college and take night classes till you get past precalc. Many offer “accelerated” course sequences so you can go from arithmetic (counting summer) to algebra II in about a year and a half. During that time I would read Isaac Asimov’s “Understanding Physics” sequence. The first book covers motion, heat, and waves I believe, the second covers Electricity, Magnetism, and Optics, and the last text covers modern physics, quantum mechanics, relativity, and that kind of hodge podge stuff (if terrified of math, wait till your algebra course starts, there is the *occasional* equation, but the books are not for physics courses but will help you understand physics- obvious in the title and help link some of the math you are learning to math in the books and future math with physics. Buy Axler’s Precalculus/trig text, it is 1/3 the size of of the standard precalc text as it actually covers math needed for calculus. Use it as a reference during precalculus and to help you remember that you don’t need to know all that algebra, but if you understand it once, then if you ever need it, a quick reference check and you will understand it again.

You DO NOT want to try to start the Calc sequences without a good understanding of Algebra and Trig (precalc). They more and better understanding, the better because in Calc, algebra will be used as it is intended, as a tool primarily, (some advanced algebra techniques will be taught, typically in calc 2, but as you need them). The course assumes you have mastery of the algebra or close to it, and will move past algebra quickly, but many students have a hard time in calculus because of algebra. The funny part is most of calc 1 and 2 topics make tons of sense and are super cool compared to what you have been taught so if you have algebra down pat, then you can focus on mastering the calc topics, and perhaps as I mention below, supplement the courses with texts that help you learn more rigorous calc.

For Calc 1 and 2 I would suggest Kline’s “Calculus: an intuitive and physical approach” written a while back, its a dover book so its cheap. It covers more than what we cover in calc 1 and 2 so don’t get worried when you see its size. Yes, its black and white, doesn’t have examples that are identical to questions but with different numbers, and so on, but studying it while you study whatever horrid text your instructor wants you to buy (if they don’t want HW, BTW, go an edition or two behind as its all the same with some page numbers and material moved around, if something referenced isn’t on the same page, look at a classmates text for what the page is covering and flip thru and you’ll find it). The book covers what Calc 1 and 2 originally covered (ie a lot more) so you can skip a lot of sections that are not in your syllabus and that the book has marked as sections that you can skip without losing continuity.

For people who actually want to get an understanding of math that will help with future math courses, and see some really cool stuff math can do, go through “Principles of Mathematics” (again, sorry, black and white, no pictures, only diagrams when needed) by Allendoerfer and Oakley. This was, maybe 50 years ago, taught at American high schools as the pre-calc text, if you have an algebra 2-ish understanding of math, you can get through the book and it has a variety of topics you will have never seen. Also, if you want to be familiar with mathematical proofs, set theory and knowledge that will help with higher level CS courses, then buy “How to Prove it” by…I forgot his name, but typing it in google with “proof” will find it- it was wrote by a computer science prof at Yale or Harvard I believe, for proofs and set theory courses for Math, CS, and even statistics and economics majors. It only requires algebra 1 or 2 ish level of “mathematical maturity” (a term used when there could be a course you could take, you met the prereqs, but you don’t really have the experience in critical thinking and math in general to handle it). Some texts below are also helpful for real understanding of math with great applications while still teaching the math.

For those who get rid of the thoughts that they are not “talented” in Math or “are not math people”, you will probably find that you like mathematics that is not just crunching numbers. For those who have a professor to guide them, Calc 1 and 2 (you can study this after a minimally rigorous text), is Spivak’s “Calculus” which gradually gets more and more proofs and is more difficult than other intro texts but has some awesome chapter long applications. If you like that idea, for Calc 3, check out “Vector Calculus, Linear Algebra, and Differential Forms” by Hubbard^2, along with it, study the short, but very helpful “div, grad, curl, and all that” by somebody who’s name I am forgetting but you’d find the text.

You may ask why study extra and such difficult texts, well to start, your critical thinking and logic skills will increase massively, you will get a significantly better understanding of the mathematics that will help you through your upper div courses, it is real math that we taught high schoolers and college students before we watered everything down to make math a tool in America and the idea that you have to be born with a math gene or something to be good at it. Also, it will allow you to understand more complex physics and take math courses that are upper division (which there are many that would help engineering majors). Also, only the Spivak and Hubbard texts are truly difficult, but are 100x more rewarding.

If you get to Linear Algebra, then if you are a CS major the text “coding the matrix” or something like that is a LA text written for CS majors with a small amount of LA knowledge and get to see cool applications like have Google’s pagerank works and editing images and cryptography. Other than that, their is a free LA text from UC Davis that introduces proof techniques and teaches LA which is great and free online at their website. Other than that, Axler’s LA text is great, it is more rigorous than a typical LA text, but LA is a great subject to start doing that in and its just great.

Pollard’s “Ordinary Differential Equations” text, again a dover text, seems very big because it covers lots of different material that you can skip, and just study the study in line with your class, but if you’re an engineering major, this book is very important and you should try to study as much of it as possible as DEs are critical to engineering (and linear algebra is key to understanding many parts of ODEs). The ordinary in the title just means they are not “partial differential equations” which are multivariable. A differential equation is, to those who have not taken calc, an equation that when and if solved, gives you an equation(s) as an answer rather than a number like in algebra.

I wouldn’t want to drive across a bridge built by engineers who are bad at math. Right now I am grading ODE exams from mostly engineering students. If you are bad at math, you will have a very hard time in college.

nice blog please we are asking you more help so that i can fulfill my dream of became i am not best in math let me know if you have any easy way of succeding the staff.