Calculus and higher math courses - are they worth taking?

Apr 26, 2010
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I understand that there is a handful of schools that require a year of college Calculus for admissions, so I decided to take Calc II so that I wouldn't disqualify myself from those schools. It's been a very difficult but rewarding course, and I am finding that I am pretty good at it. I currently have a very strong math and science GPA, as well as a strong record at my undergrad (as a music major, though), so I don't need to pad my GPA, but I have found that math is a really good subject for me. I could potentially take Calc III and one higher math course before I apply, and then another year's worth before I enroll.

Does anyone know if this higher math is truly useful in medical school? Perhaps being facile with mathematics, i might be more likely to be useful to researchers? Thinking this might be a plus considering my lack of science background and advanced age all but precludes me from pursuing an MD/PhD. Any good reasons for or against doing some extra math?
 

n3xa

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Because it's FUN?! ;) :p

I'm biased. Those math classes helped my AMCAS gpa. And it was cool taking those classes because the math department was filled with laid-back kids.
 

QofQuimica

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Does anyone know if this higher math is truly useful in medical school? Perhaps being facile with mathematics, i might be more likely to be useful to researchers? Thinking this might be a plus considering my lack of science background and advanced age all but precludes me from pursuing an MD/PhD. Any good reasons for or against doing some extra math?
No, higher math is not truly useful for medical school (or even biomedical research), but then neither are most of the other classes you take in college. And I would argue that the whole point of taking college classes is to be an educated person, not to prepare you for medical school. So if you like calc, and you're doing well in it, sure, take some more math classes. As long as you do well in them, no one will fault you for it, and it might well lead to some interesting interview discussions about why a music major was taking linear algebra or something. :p

All kidding aside, one thing that would be tremendously useful for medical school if you can swing it would be to take a biostats and/or statistical modeling class. Even if you never do a day of research in your life, that experience will help make you an informed consumer of the medical literature.
 
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Apr 26, 2010
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All kidding aside, one thing that would be tremendously useful for medical school if you can swing it would be to take a biostats and/or statistical modeling class. Even if you never do a day of research in your life, that experience will help make you an informed consumer of the medical literature.

Biostats and statistical modeling sound like decent course choices. I asked this question to a psychiatrist/researcher who said that many studies will employ a a researcher with a PhD in statistics. Compared to this level of skill, a couple years of college math will not necessarily be useful. On the other hand, any additional biology courses will be very useful for medical school.

So I'll have to weigh the opportunity cost against more directly useful biology and statistics courses. Thanks for the ideas. :)
 

LifetimeDoc

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Let's see... I took Calc I, got an A. Took Calc II got a B. Took Calc III got a C. Took Introduction to Circuits (calculus based) and got a C. Screwed up my GPA! Not a smart thing to do, at least for me.

If you love math, and can get A's, then go for it. Medical schools look at your "science" GPA very closely, so it's probably smart to take classes where you know you can get A's...but it can be in things other than mathematics.
 
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QofQuimica

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Biostats and statistical modeling sound like decent course choices. I asked this question to a psychiatrist/researcher who said that many studies will employ a a researcher with a PhD in statistics. Compared to this level of skill, a couple years of college math will not necessarily be useful. On the other hand, any additional biology courses will be very useful for medical school.
Yes, we do have a statistician doing the heavy analytical lifting. (I'm doing clinical research in anesthesiology.) However, I disagree with the psychiatrist that taking a few stats courses is not useful, especially biostats and/or statistical modeling. If you don't want the stats to be a black box, it behooves you to learn enough stats that you can understand (and explain to others) just what the heck you did. It also helps you communicate in a common language with the statistician.

I have been doing research of one type or another for the past 15 years, and I can say without reservation that the statistical modeling class I took during med school was hands down the most useful research course I have ever taken. You'll get all the biology you could ever need or want in medical school (and probably a lot more than you need or want!) But you won't get nearly as much statistical training as you need, especially if you're thinking you might want to be a clinical researcher. A lot of people who go into clinical research end up taking stats classes for this very reason--my stats course classmates included several residents and fellows, and even one junior attending.
 

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Because it's FUN?! ;) :p

I'm biased. Those math classes helped my AMCAS gpa. And it was cool taking those classes because the math department was filled with laid-back kids.

This is how it was for me. I actually got a B in calc I, but I started off as an engineering major, so I've always been a math geek. I scored an A in both calc 2 & calc 3 (which I thought were much more fun and made more sense than calc 1...I know that's probably weird).
 

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I'm going to have to agree with Q on this one. I'm currently taking a graduate epidemiology 1 and biostatistics 1 class for part of an epidemiology degree and I see biostats being VERY useful for my future career plans (medicine and research, probably clinical research). The number of people that I'm around at the hospital I work at that don't have even a limited grasp on stats use really suprising. If you have any inclination towards research I'd definitely suggest getting some stats courses under your belt. It's not just useful for conducting studies, but also understanding them when you read about them in the literature.

As for what the psychiatrist said, well my biostats prof said his goal was "To teach you how to use stats properly in your studies, understand them when you read other people's studies, and develop a strong enough understanding to know your limitations regarding what you can do on your own and what you need a professional statistician for."
 
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seelee

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I took Calc I-III and I can honestly say that I have done almost zero math in the first two years of medical school.

Still, I like math, and it was a good experience. If you like it, then do it. Everyone always says "do what you love". As far as I know, there isn't any addendum saying "unless it's math".

If you want something more practical. Consider Anatomy, physiology, genetics, molecular biology, etc.
 

n3xa

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This is how it was for me. I actually got a B in calc I, but I started off as an engineering major, so I've always been a math geek. I scored an A in both calc 2 & calc 3 (which I thought were much more fun and made more sense than calc 1...I know that's probably weird).

No it makes sense. Calc 2 was not my fave (I somehow managed to screw up the shells/washer stuff) but 1 and 3 were fun.. especially calc 3.

Discrete math was fun for the shock value as I am female and was a biochem major at the time. Breaking up the sausage-fest, haaaay. :laugh: They were ruthless to me but it only made me study harder.
 

peripherin

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Discrete math was fun for the shock value as I am female and was a biochem major at the time. Breaking up the sausage-fest, haaaay. :laugh: They were ruthless to me but it only made me study harder.

Men are silly!
 
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