Can we become mathematicians by self-study? (Part 2)

In the list of famous self-taught mathematicians mentioned in part 1, there is a very prominent name that is the Indian mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan. Although self-taught, he still left a huge legacy of more than 3900 equations and identities that are very valuable for mathematics. Ramanujan’s time was at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Now that it is the 21st century, socio-economic conditions have changed a lot, higher education opportunities are increasingly open, should we pursue it? Math career by self-taught like Ramanujan?

Readers are invited to part 2: two necessary conditions of a self-taught mathematician. The series is compiled from the opinions of the readers of, one of the world’s leading Q&A websites.

Becoming a self-taught mathematician is not a matter of independent study. The truth is that most people who achieve great things without formal training have such confidence and desire that they don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how it’s going to be (the math dream). but they just swim under the lead of passion.

Can we become mathematicians by self-study? (Part 2)
Becoming a self-taught mathematician is not a matter of independent study.

According to reader Lendz Elliot , mathematics is like a foundation that can be viewed from many angles. These perspectives can be subdivided into three groups: those with math experience, those with no math experience, and those of mathematicians.

Math won’t make you rich, being a mathematician won’t make you famous, and I (Lendz) often observe that the fastest way to not become a mathematician is to make sure that… the course you choose is math.

That’s because mathematics is almost 3,000 years old, while computer science is only 29 years old, and modern physics only really started to take off with the invention of the light bulb in the early 1900s, and soon followed by rapid advances in relativity and quantum mechanics.

Where it is today, mathematics is thousands of light years ahead of the industry, making it especially difficult to find situations that can be applied to problems worthy of commercialization. The math is also amazingly complex, and only a very select few people understand the strangest intricacies that are going on. Those intricacies get you hooked but it’s too easy for you not to empathize with them (because they’re hard to understand!).

It seems that the saying “the fastest way to not become a mathematician is to make sure that… the course you choose is mathematics” has nothing to do with each other. Mathematics has charm, and mathematics has seduced many great people into its smooth twists. But the math you know and the math that exists at the highest levels of activity can be as starkly different as day and night.

Know that the only real reason someone would want to be a mathematician is because of a conscious, out-of-the-ordinary love for the study of math. As you progress further in your studies, the content begins to change radically, often uninterestingly. When it comes to that, most decide to refuse to continue not because of the difficulty when the slope ahead becomes steep but because of the nature of what they think they are promised and what they do not receive. what to do with each other. Most give up and jump to other fronts, becoming physicists or economists.

At its purest, mathematics is the study of patterns (patterns, laws). Is math more of a science or more of an art? Whether the coin is heads or tails when you flip it, it’s important to realize that math has worked very, very hard to ask the right questions. In this example, for the answer to be “With passionate love, admiration and patience for the subject, that’s the point”, then the correct question is not “How do I become a a self-taught mathematician”. The right question should be “Should I become a mathematician?”. If you love math, you will love math. If you like the idea of becoming a mathematician then you should establish a vision to make math your hobby.

Can we become mathematicians by self-study? (Part 2)
The only real reason someone would want to be a mathematician is because of an out-of-the-ordinary conscious love for math research. (Photo: Etsy)

That (Should I become a mathematician?) is possible. The fact that self-taught mathematicians emerge from a certain cave every few years and shock the math community with an uncanny solution to enigmatic problems has enthralled the greatest minds for 100 years. I’ve had a headache lately, it’s not unusual.

When you have love, knowledge will follow. I suggest you go to the internet and only read academic textbooks. First, I would study, not read, but study almost 500 books and Euler research (which is quite a lot!).

Euler was the greatest mathematician of the 18th century and is considered the greatest mathematician of all time, on par with Newton and Archimedes.

And midway through, you can add to your knowledge more modern approaches.

Reader Lendz Elliot is a professional writer and editor, with a bachelor’s degree in linguistics, physics, and mathematics from the University of California at Santa Cruz- the top 50 schools in the US and the top 150 in the world according to the rankings. of the Academic Rankings of World Universities 2018.

Can we become mathematicians by self-study? (Part 2)
Writer and editor Lendz Elliot. (Photo:

The first condition for becoming a self-taught mathematician is passion. But passion is only one part, the rest is your ability, understanding of math and the way to learn math. Self-study does not mean not going to school. Studying math in college is not useless. Without formal education you are more likely to reinvent the wheel over and over again until you can stumble upon a new discovery.

The geniuses and great mathematicians mentioned in part 1 did not pass formal math classes, but later half of them entered math majors or completed research of professional value to be recognized. received doctoral degrees from world-renowned universities.

After publishing the first work on the application of mathematics in physics, in 1833 the British mathematician and physicist George Green entered Cambridge University to study mathematics at the age of 40 and graduated in 1837. Srinivasa Ramanujan twice failed. was studying at university in India, but with much effort, he finally obtained a Bachelor of Science in Research from Cambridge University (a degree equivalent to a PhD today) through a work about composite numbers.

Can we become mathematicians by self-study? (Part 2)
Mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan and colleagues at the University of Cambridge. (Photo: Medium)

The famous Chinese number theorist Hua Luogeng, although unfinished high school, he taught himself all the high school math program, part of the university math program, and was promoted to the rank of university lecturer. attended Tsinghua University at the age of 24. At the age of 28, after two years at Cambridge, he published his work on Waring’s problem in number theory and resonated with the international community. Returning home, he was appointed to the position of full professor at Tsinghua University, becoming a professor without a university degree at China’s leading university in the field of natural sciences.

The second Chinese mathematician mentioned in part 1 is Zhang Yitang who, due to circumstances, attended university many years later than his peers, but also obtained his doctorate at the age of 35, in 1991.

Zhang Yitang studied for a doctorate at Purdue West Lafayette, a public research university, among the highest in the US with the highest level of research (doctorate) activity. In the US, the schools ranked with the highest research activity are those in the “elite” group, which have a much stricter selection of admissions than universities specializing in application and practice. Purdue West Lafayette is ranked 34th in the US by the Academic Rankings of World Universities and 70th in the 2018 list of the world’s best universities.

Dr. Josh Isralowitz, assistant professor of mathematics at the University of Albany (New York), said: “It’s possible to be an amateur mathematician. An amateur mathematician is anyone who discovers new things. something really new and exciting in math even without formal training.” But here we are talking about professional mathematicians.

Can we become mathematicians by self-study? (Part 2)
Josh Isralowitz is an assistant professor of mathematics at the University of Albany. (Photo: Albany University)

If you want a career in math, the best thing you can do is educate yourself enough math to take a PhD course (assuming you already have an undergraduate degree). While it’s theoretically possible to teach yourself enough math to become a research mathematician, no one in academia will hire you if you don’t have a PhD. And you need to do postdoctoral studies if you want a place in a research university.

Ramanujan was self-taught and got the attention of Hardy and an academic position but that was a different time. Today, formal education is much more accessible. And most importantly, Ramanujan has the ability of a genius.

(to be continued)…