Need Help Learning Math For A Job

OK, so I applied for a job and the guy’s like, “wow, interesting that you should call because I think I’ll have an opening for that position in about eight weeks. How much math do you know?”

Now, I didn’t want to tell him that I took logic in college instead of math, so I said, “well, I don’t have a strong background in math, but am willing to learn. What will I need to know and do you know any books that might be helpful?”

I thought this was a good answer because the books I had on the subject didn’t appear to have any complicated math in them and everyone uses computer programs (or spreadsheets) with the math preprogrammed anyway.

The response, “Anything relating to probability and stats. Differential equations and calculus.”

OK. I took stats in high school. I vaguely recall what a z-line is and know the difference between mean, median and mode. I dropped out of precalc in high school and would guess that a differential calculation is subtraction (yes, I know that’s wrong).

So, anyone know a good place to start learning this stuff?

Wow, a job where you actually use calculus… (speaking as an engineer and MBA *but please don’t hold the MBA against me * )

The closest I came to using real math on the job was designing a statistically sound sampling plan for mobile phones…

Most numerical calculations in actual technical design work are done by specialised software packages now, as far as I know, but you still have to have an understanding of the underlying assumptions and equations for when someone enters a value wrong (wrong units, wrong sign, X instead of y value, etc.) and your results go wonky. You have to be able to look at the results and 1. Determine something is wonky*. 2. Have an idea where to look in the input.

As to where to look to learn stats & calculus & diff.eq., an local college or university could set you up, but I’m afraid you don’t have that much time…

It’s kind of like hoping to get a martial art black belt in 8 weeks…

Maybe the best way would be to ask to speak to a person doing similar work, and ask them about the applications, what they actually, specifically, do, and then find a specialised textboks in the area and just memorise formulas and solutions to equations…

Good luck

*Reminds me of a story from school: in one final in mechanics, the point of the question was to determine the thrust force on a snoblower exerted by the jet of snow exiting the spout, and, for bonus marks, explain how this would manifest iteself to the operator. Well, there was a really easy mistake in the math that would have you find this snow blower was producing more thrust than a jet engine on full afterburners. Even though the bonus questions was supposed to make people think, there were a large number of “snow rockets” launched in that exam :wink:

That’s what I figured. Damn. I’ll have to see if I can slide through on the force of my personality and work ethic and pick it up as I go along.

Normally I would say “email me and any questions you will have I will try my best to answer” but the only math that I am sort of not sure of is probablity and I have yet to have calculus. So, the offer is there, I just can not extend it. That being said…

I have taught myself so much math just by reading sites like these. Hell, I taught myself derivatives using . You may find enough just to get by you never know.

Chairman Pow wrote

What’s the job?

The fact that you called about some role implies that you already have some skills (and interests) that match. Yet you didn’t take math in college, so I assume there is other important skillset overlap.

I wonder how deep the math knowledge has to be. Many jobs use statistics in some way or another, but it’s a pretty math-intense job that requires calculus.

If you describe the job, perhaps I (or others) can tell you what’s expected, and from that what’s typical in an interview

The job in question is an entry-level job in an investment firm (options primarily). I’m not terribly familiar with the math, but I assumed that the majority of it was in programmed already although I suppose if he has any proprietary methods, they’d have to be programmed separately.

I would recommend The Cartoon Guide to Statistics. Also, check out books by Crisp Publications. They are good at teaching just enough about lots of subjects to let you use a skill on the job.

A couple things in my personal experience about math. 1) You have to start at the beginning and work up. Although the books I recommended may be a little basic compared to what you actually do, I doubt you’ll get anywhere picking up my engineer hubby’s Differential Equations textbook. 2) You need to do the problems, not just read the book, to learn anything. This is pretty much the only thing I learned in college calculus, and I learned it the hard way.

Also, depending on what you’ll be doing, one reason you may need to know the math, even if it’s automated in spreadsheets, could be to explain it to customers. Keep that in mind, because they may have little patience if you truly don’t know what your spreadsheet is doing.

Good luck!

Well, on the plus side, I suspect math is a lot easier to learn when you have an immediate goal in mind.

On the minus side, that is a potentially difficult field. You can visit the library or bookstore to peruse a book like Financial Calculus to see what it involves.

Like econometrics, for example, even if it is plugged into spreadsheets, it can be essential to know the math since implicit assumptions made in the programming algorithms can make a difference in the outcome. Additionally, if something ain’t right, it helps to be able to figure out why.

You would also probably want to look at a book like Options, Futures, and Other Derivatives for a broader treatment—indeed, I probably should have linked to this first.

The thing is, that with an entry-level job, you may very well have time to get some good learning in before you need to know the math explicitly. So if you have good skills and an incentive, and if there is a college near by, you can start taking classes at night, for example, and learn. Go for it.

Oy, ain’t that the truth… I had to learn that lesson repeatedly. In the same year. For several years of Engineering school. In serveral panic & desperate-prayer-filled exams.:smack:

No wonder our professors didn’t give a hoot if we xeroxed each other’s homework assignements. The midterms and finals would punish us far more harshly, and with far less bureaucratic effort, than any plagiarism charge…

Three times amen, sister!


That should get you started. Next week - fractions.

What the shit!!?? I can’t get a job in an investment firm and I have a freakin MBA and all the math of an engineering degree!

Anyhow, it’s probably just basic statistical math (means, std deviations, etc) which might require some basic calculus. Hopefully you won’t have to create programs to run Black-Scholes option models or anything. You might want to find that out.