Why is math too difficult for mathematicians

How difficult is a math degree? Am I suitable?

Dr. Markus Junker


Dr. Markus Junker, program coordinator for mathematics at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, knows what you can do with maths studies.

How can I find out whether I am suitable for studying mathematics?
The best way to do this is to try it out. Interest in math is a good sign. Conversations with mathematics students and the academic advisory service as well as information events at the universities are helpful. You can ask the teachers about more difficult tasks that go beyond the school material and see whether you enjoy doing them. You can also look into a book for one of the introductory lectures (it is best to ask the teacher). You don't have to understand everything, but you should find it interesting.

What service does the University of Freiburg offer for prospective students?
Every year in September we organize student days for the upper level, in August a ›trial study‹ especially for female students and offer special events on the open day. In addition, advice is possible at any time - by phone, email or in a personal conversation. Within the scope of our capacities, we also like to visit schools.

What are the requirements for studying math?
You should enjoy abstract thinking and a certain talent for logical thinking, as well as the willingness to delve into tasks whose solution is not obvious. It helps if you can work for yourself for a long time and also work well with others.

How important is the math grade for the course?
A good grade in mathematics easily achieved is a good sign; the note alone does not say so much. Good math grades can also be obtained with diligence or by memorizing typical exam tasks. With a few exceptions, I would advise against a bad math grade.

What are the reasons for the high drop-out rate in STEM courses, especially in mathematics?
Mathematics is by nature a very demanding discipline - not everyone is ready for it. However, those who have not changed subjects or dropped out of their studies after the first semester usually also graduate in mathematics. I see it positively that when you make such an important decision as studying at an early stage, you recognize when it is not the right thing to do. Incidentally, most of those who start studying mathematics also get a degree - often in another MINT subject, for which the mathematics knowledge they have already acquired is helpful.

What strategies do you recommend for your studies?
It is important that you work a lot with others and try to explain the material and the tasks to each other. In addition, you should definitely make use of advice services early on if you experience difficulties. However, I do not believe in trying to hold out a special degree with all your might if you don't enjoy it.

How easy or difficult was it for you to find a career after graduating from high school?
I studied the subject pretty much in the dark, namely what I found easiest in school. But at that time there was not so much social pressure to plan your future career as a schoolboy.