What're the best resources for re-learning Math starting from Algebra?
July 23, 2018 9:48 PM   Subscribe

Hi ya'll!, I didn't always love math, but I sure do now! As I got more serious with game programming, I started to really get math. But I also ran into a serious issue: I mostly punted on it in high school and I was missing the basics. I managed to patch up my knowledge of games-useful trig, but now I'd like to go back and really dig in. What're my options?

I've really enjoyed problem solving with Math, but I know that I'm missing big parts of the standard canon- Quadratic equations, areas of triangles, circle math!- and it drives me crazy. Trying to learn via Google is even more dubious as it tends to go from "Here's how you find the area of a circle and here's 90000 words on a theorem you've never heard of".

I really liked the iPad app Brilliant, but I found their pricing model ($25 a month to "see the work") to be a little steep. I have a couple of text books, but I'm not sure I'm tackling them in the right order. It's just hard to know how to structure the work ahead of me!

In 2018, what're the best resources for a 30-something eager to dig back in?
posted by GilloD to Education (15 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, I should have noted: I don't love videos. I really prefer to work from text except where a live example can help clarify. And I also love all the history of math, so anything that tackles the subject with an eye to its broader context is really great!
posted by GilloD at 9:50 PM on July 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have a couple of text books, but I'm not sure I'm tackling them in the right order.

Knowing what you have would help with that part! I've actually started this with an algebra/trig book before and I didn't stick with it very well but it was easier and more pleasant than I thought. You can get a graphics calculator mobile app now that you're not in a class where anybody cares about cheating, and the odd problems generally have answers, and if you struggle with a particular concept there's Youtube.
posted by Sequence at 10:08 PM on July 23, 2018

Sounds like you know what you want to learn, but just can't find it. Here are some sites and pages I've bookmarked over the years. I haven't gone through many, and some rely on video (left out Kahn Academy since it is primarily video based), but hopefully some good resources in the mix.

Better Explained
MIT Open CourseWare
OpenStacks CNX
Future Learn
posted by hankscorpio83 at 10:20 PM on July 23, 2018 [5 favorites]

As for the order, it seems like the typical order is Algebra, Geometry, Advanced Algebra, Trig, Pre-Calc, Calc.
posted by hankscorpio83 at 10:23 PM on July 23, 2018

You can use Khan Academy without most of the videos if you use the World of Math mission to test yourself and figure out what you remember vs. what you actually need to relearn.
posted by kbuxton at 10:32 PM on July 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

The Art of Problem Solving books cover high school-level math for advanced kids who want to compete in math contests. To that end, they cover the basics really rigorously, and the problems require creative application of the concepts, not rote application of an algorithm. I think you might get something out of them. I recommend getting the solution books as well.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 12:34 AM on July 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Don't skip Linear Algebra! It's not usually taught in high school in lieu of Calculus, and it's a crime against mathematics education as far as I'm concerned. This is doubly true if you have some interest in games programming.
posted by cotterpin at 1:15 AM on July 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

As a computer person who has their first trigonometry final in 30 years on Wednesday, nothing has worked as well as community college.
posted by rhizome at 1:17 AM on July 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm getting into math (for pretty much the first time) and what's really helping me is "A history of the circle" by Ernest Zebrowski. Book explores deeply anywhere π pops up - a lot of places I'd never thought of.
Thanks for your question as I was about to ask a very similar one.
posted by unearthed at 4:21 AM on July 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Perhaps look at books aimed at studying for the GRE mathematics component? The 'basics' booklets from ETS, who run the tests, cover a lot of material.

I came to these as someone who had been OK with maths till around age 15-16, and then crashed out badly on the advanced maths in the final years of high school. I then reluctantly studied some statistics in university, with mixed results. Fast forward 10+ years and I considered doing a postgrad in economics. It required a good score in GRE math, so I studied from GRE-focussed books and found it really useful for quickly filling in the gaps in my knowledge.
posted by yesbut at 5:44 AM on July 24, 2018

I get it about videos, most are not great. Spot check topics to see how variables are spoken (I recall embarrassment at saying ell en (ln) rather than natural log). A few are great, look at 3Blue1Brown for calculus and linear.

The topics ordering in schools is somewhat traditional, jumping around topics is not wrong. Some trig is important for calc but not a full year and geometry is fun but not required before trig. The math subreddits are actually not bad, check out the sidebars.
posted by sammyo at 6:58 AM on July 24, 2018

(I recall embarrassment at saying ell en (ln) rather than natural log)

Conversely in Chemistry it is always pronounced as ell enn as in the Arrhenius plot which has an axis of ln(k) ie ell enn kay Upon further explination it would be called the natural log, but in normal conversation it is always ell enn.

So however you learn don't be embarrassed if people correct you because in a different field they might do it your way.
posted by koolkat at 8:10 AM on July 24, 2018

It's not a bad idea to see if there are night classes available at your local community college for Calculus. Community colleges are cheap, but often have excellent instruction. The biggest problem in self-directed math learning is motivation to continue when other things intervene. Dropping $500 for a semester, and having homework and exams can be a good motivator.
posted by dis_integration at 9:25 AM on July 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Used math textbooks!

Go to the closest college bookstore.
Find the texts in use for the math classes you are interested in. (maybe you can find a books list online, even better)
Find older editions of those text books online for cheap.
Also try to find a teachers edition, as they will have problem answers.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:46 PM on July 24, 2018

Math is one of those things where everything you learn is going to be connected to everything else in the subject in interesting and unexpected ways. Really, anything you learn will build upon the elusive quality of "mathematical maturity." I will second and expand upon what "cotterpin" suggested: look into linear algebra ASAP. It is so, SO useful/required for many subfields of math and will aid in getting a base level understanding for higher level maths. Most of the time it is used to introduce/reinforce abstract concepts for undergrads as well as proofs. Furthermore, an understanding of linear algebra makes the study of calculus, differential equations, and numerical analysis (all fields that are heavily used in game development/graphics programming.) This is probably the most practical route/suggestion you can go for immediately. Furthermore: it's fun!

Now math for math's sake/"mathematical maturity"/general expansion of knowledge: I would say analysis and number theory are great, as well as abstract algebra and geometry. Though what you will be personally interested in I can't tell of course. There is so much to learn. Maybe look into the theory of computation for more CS-focused math. I personally really enjoyed learning about formal languages an automata theory, though to understand those you will need some mathematical maturity (ideas of sets and functions, proof methods).

I could give a list of books I have enjoyed on the subjects, do you have more of an idea of what you're interested in? Maths is a wide field of study. Are you interested in practical applications or more excited about abstract beauty/logic? Even if it is the former, the latter will make you more easily understand and study the former.
posted by hypercomplexsimplicity at 5:11 PM on July 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

« Older Help me get my money back from Big Telecom   |   practice questions NYC co-op board interview Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.