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How much math do you know? - May 2, 2010
Rating: 4.4/5 (79 votes cast)
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Spiked Math Comic - How much math do you know?


* Data provided by the Institute of International Mathematical Know It Alls (i.e. I just made it up).


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27 Comments

what about physicists or engineers? or like me Engineering Physics guys.

Actually I've meant to ask on a unrelated note, where does the divergence or curl of a function come from. In other words if you do the divergence or curl of a function mathematically what does that tell you about the function. The gradient I can understand with quite a bit of ease.

As far as I can remember, the divergence indicates the vector density at a given point, and the curl indicates a shift in vector magnitude at a given point.
Beyond that, I have no idea.

the curl is how much it spins at a point. look at a small square and you'll see it's about the angular velocity vector. divergence mesures the flow through a small cube at the point, but I'm pretty sure it only works for locally integrable functions. (Also, why do americans seem to care so much about vector calculus? the only reason I know what div/curl mean is that I took a physics course for easy credit).

Hey, I love Vector Calculus, probably more than any other math so far, and I'm only one quarter American!

You probably should have used a log-scale. Three breaks in a vertical scale don't really help the readability.

I a disagree with this one. Most mathematicans I know actually don't think they know that much compared to people with a Bsc. For example undergrads think that they are on the verge or research when they are doing a course in complex analysis. Mathematicians reading a monograph know that even after that book they would not even have scrathed the surface.

Good point, and come to think of it most mathematicians I correspond with admit to not knowing much math.

The last bar would definitely be better as "What an undergrad thinks he/she knows after taking a complex analysis course".

I personally know mathematicians for who would be the yellow bar over the 100% :D
Sorry for my english I hope you understand a bit...

Erdos said that the book was transfinite, so at most a mathemitician can know 0% of all mathematics.

I agree! :)

Okay, the comic said "all math that is known".

But still! Infinitely much to research! to find out! :)

You could have used a logarithmic scale to denote the large variance instead of using several kinks on the Y-axis...

I don't have any degrees about math, but I'm sure i'm interested in it...(and know about 0.01%)

I think that probably your vertical axis is off by a factor of at least two, and perhaps as much as 10, both for what a mathematician thinks she knows, and for what she actually knows.
The graph might have been more accurate for 100 years ago, perhaps. But now, there are huge swaths, major areas, in which most mathematicians don't even know the terms, let alone know the definitions or understand the topics. And thanks to the MSC2000, we can all prove it by numbers and letters.

Spiked Math, I too am curious to know where you'd put the average physics graduate / physicist --- what he really knows and what he thinks he knows?

Unfortunately I don't have a clever answer for that, and anything I say will probably be held against me in a court of law. In that case, I'd say a physicist has roughly the same math knowledge as a mathematician :-)

that's indeed a clever answer. Gee you could also be a diplomat ;)

You know, I'm a Ph.D. student who considers himself a mathematician. I'd like to discuss the implication that I'll get dumber once I've finished my degree. Haha.

Higher rankings must take priority over the lower ones, because a Mathematician could, and likely does, have some sort of degree. Also, whether you actually qualify as a mathematician or just consider yourself one makes a difference. I'm not sure what the official qualifications are, though.

Where's WolframAlpha on this scale?

I want to see WolframAlpah, Mike please edit the picture.

I think Wolfram Alpha would be split into two places--in some respects it's in the B.S. Math range. In other respects it's at 0% because, although it can do a lot of math, it doesn't (AFAIK) have intuition or awareness. It can sometimes make a good guess about what the user meant when typing in ambiguous input. That's cool, but it doesn't mean it's going to be able to prove anything in math that a live human hasn't programmed it to prove.

--
Furry cows moo and decompress.

Do math teachers score higher?

Benjamin Koshkin

What I don't understand is why Americans call it "Math". If the full word is "Mathematics" then the short form is "Maths", which is what we call it in the UK.

Singular in a lot of languages though eg Математика. In Latin it's properly an adjective ars mathematica.

More bizarre in my opinion is the British habit of using a singular verb, "I think maths is boring." Maths isn't a baseball team.

My father would have said that's why there are menus in restaurants, we all get a choice =]

Not trying to ruin the joke here, but this comic reminded me of something one of my Math teachers in college (Doug Wickerhauser) said to us:

"When I was in high school, I wanted to solve all the worlds problems. When I was in college I wanted to solve a really important problem. When I was in grad school, I wanted to solve one very specific Math problem. Now a realize that all humans know about the universe approaches 0."

@Steve:

Americans call in Math instead of Math because it is a non-count noun (must be, right? If not, then we'd have to have a Mathematic).

Interesting. I knew I was pretty low on the scale with my B.S. Comp Sci (which at my Univ was basically a B.S. Math with computers thrown in for fun). But I did not realize that even full-on mathematicians were so low in overall knowledge of math. I guess what I mean to say is, I didn't realize the subject of math was so huge.

--
Furry cows moo and decompress.

I'm 90% confident

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