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  #1  
Old 05-30-2017, 05:28 AM
m95634 m95634 is offline
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Default Advice please. Struggling first year uni student

Hi everyone. As title says, I'm currently a first year student needing advice. I'm currently in my first semester of the actuarial studies major at University of Melbourne (Australia), so don't start any actual actuary subjects until next semester (currently taking accounting, finance, micro economics and maths). I'm finding the maths subject very difficult, especially the proofs side of things, and general type questions. However, up to taking this subject I had always done well in and enjoyed maths (hence why I'm interested in actuary), and have still done well in finance, which has consisted of mainly financial maths, and I felt that I've been understanding the theory behind the formulas too.

So my main question is, if I struggle with the proofs and 'general' questions (I.e. Without concrete examples, e.g determining dimension of image and kernel for linear transformation that maps any square 3*3 matrix to its trace), does this mean I should give up the actuarial dream now before I waste too much money? Thanks
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  #2  
Old 05-30-2017, 06:17 AM
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GargoyleWaiting GargoyleWaiting is offline
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My immediate thought is you should keep with it. I did something similar in the UK, in that the start of my actuarial degree was solid maths - and I didn't like the completely theoretical bits (once we started doing things in more than 3 dimensions I just lost interest...)

It's possible to get along as an actuary without doing any really complex maths, the potential stumbling block for you could just be getting through the exams. I'd suggest you take a look at the syllabus of the professional exams you'll be sitting and find out what sort of things you'll be tested on - the day to day maths will be less complicated than that.
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  #3  
Old 05-30-2017, 09:05 AM
kmhst25 kmhst25 is offline
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I'm in the US, but I had a similar experience in college. My freshman (or maybe early sophomore?) year, I felt like I didn't have a firm enough grasp on higher-level calculus and I was worried it would affect my ability to do future coursework. I asked my adviser about it and he was basically like 'just do it' (hate that guy). But that insecurity really hasn't affected me on the actuarial track.

You mostly won't need to use advanced calculus on exams or in your job. There are some questions on exams that can be solved with it, but there's almost always a different way to do them. I think part of exam taking is knowing where you struggle and just accepting that you should probably skip questions that you're really weak on (provided there are only a few of them).

The biggest struggle you might run into is that it might be hard to keep your grades up if your school places a lot of focus on proofs/advanced calculus. I personally think an actuarial program should be more tailored to exams than theoretical math, but not all schools agree with me.
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  #4  
Old 05-30-2017, 09:49 AM
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Ron Weasley Ron Weasley is offline
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I got the grades I wanted in all of my math courses, and enjoyed most of them. But, linear algebra felt like a bunch of worthless nonsense to me, and my one graduate level statistics course left me feeling like all of the stats stuff was rather pointless.

Over the years, I've drifted toward the statistical end of insurance work and interact daily with statisticians and other analytics professionals, all with advanced degrees and hold my own quite well. Linear algebra has become a convenient short hand for working through some of the theoretical aspects of things I need to understand. Statisticians still seem rather quirky to me, but statistics have become my daily bread and butter.

So, I say don't let a few frustrations in the beginning deter you from an actuarial path. I think you are correct to ask the question at this point, but as you probe "is this really what I want to do?", look toward the end result, a career in actuarial work. Talk with a few actuaries at different stages in their careers, expressing your concerns, and see what you learn. This will yield more meaningful insights than frustrations with a few courses will give.

Also, one piece of unsolicited advice. It may be useful to have a degree that says something other than "actuary". It's not uncommon for individuals in their early 30s to decide that they wish to pursue a different course in life. A degree that says "economics", "mathematics", "computer science", etc. has a broader understanding and recognition for employers outside of the insurance industry than "actuary" does. I'm not suggesting to avoid a degree that says "actuary", but go ahead and get a dual major so that you have at least one degree that says something else also.
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Old 05-30-2017, 10:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m95634 View Post
So my main question is, if I struggle with the proofs and 'general' questions (I.e. Without concrete examples, e.g determining dimension of image and kernel for linear transformation that maps any square 3*3 matrix to its trace), does this mean I should give up the actuarial dream now before I waste too much money? Thanks
Short answer, no. Many of us in this field experience difficulties and frustrations. Virtually every coworker I know has failed an exam at least once. It's very unlikely that you would go throughout your actuarial education without feeling the way you're currently feeling. When it comes to preliminary actuarial exams, the mathematics involved are not very difficult. I think it's important to get an idea as to what are on these exams before making this type of decision. I'd check out a couple exam manuals and some practice problems to get an idea.

I personally was never great with proofs either. I don't think that has had much of an impact on me in my job or exam progress. I also agree with Weasley here. If you find that you're unsure of the actuarial path, maybe getting a more general degree would be beneficial. If you later decide you do not want to enter the field, you probably wouldn't want to have a degree specializing in it.
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Last edited by Lorenzo Von Matterhorn; 05-30-2017 at 10:45 AM..
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  #6  
Old 05-30-2017, 11:05 AM
nonlnear nonlnear is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m95634 View Post
Hi everyone. As title says, I'm currently a first year student needing advice. I'm currently in my first semester of the actuarial studies major at University of Melbourne (Australia), so don't start any actual actuary subjects until next semester (currently taking accounting, finance, micro economics and maths). I'm finding the maths subject very difficult, especially the proofs side of things, and general type questions. However, up to taking this subject I had always done well in and enjoyed maths (hence why I'm interested in actuary), and have still done well in finance, which has consisted of mainly financial maths, and I felt that I've been understanding the theory behind the formulas too.

So my main question is, if I struggle with the proofs and 'general' questions (I.e. Without concrete examples, e.g determining dimension of image and kernel for linear transformation that maps any square 3*3 matrix to its trace), does this mean I should give up the actuarial dream now before I waste too much money? Thanks
The fact that you are able to clearly state an example of the kind of problem that gives you - er - problems means that there is hope.
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Old 05-30-2017, 11:21 AM
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Colymbosathon ecplecticos Colymbosathon ecplecticos is offline
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...determining dimension of image and kernel for linear transformation that maps any square 3*3 matrix to its trace ...
This is essentially a basic accounting question. I'll assume that it is a real matrix. The trace is a real number. The matrix has nine elements, so we'll view it as lying in nine dimensional space.

Now trace is a linear operator (so its image is a subspace of the codomain), and it can take on any value (so the image has dimension greater than zero). The codomain has dimension 1, so the image must be all of it. So image has dimension 1.

Now the domain has dimension 9 and image has dimension 1, so the kernel must have dimension eight, because the dimension of the image and the dimension of the kernel must account for the dimension of the domain.
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Old 05-30-2017, 12:30 PM
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yoyo yoyo is offline
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one nice thing about the profession is that there are opportunities for just about anyone who can make it through the exams. want to do heavy stat work? check. want to do minimal math and concentrate on running a business or sell services? check. and everything in between.

i rarely use anything more complicated that +,-,*,/
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Old 05-30-2017, 12:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Colymbosathon ecplecticos View Post
This is essentially a basic accounting question. I'll assume that it is a real matrix. The trace is a real number. The matrix has nine elements, so we'll view it as lying in nine dimensional space.

Now trace is a linear operator (so its image is a subspace of the codomain), and it can take on any value (so the image has dimension greater than zero). The codomain has dimension 1, so the image must be all of it. So image has dimension 1.

Now the domain has dimension 9 and image has dimension 1, so the kernel must have dimension eight, because the dimension of the image and the dimension of the kernel must account for the dimension of the domain.
This is exactly the sort of thing I was talking about. I don't even know if any of this makes sense.
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But the mosquitoes in New Brunswick Bay of Fundy did mess with my understanding of some limited loss functions
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Excel gave me #VALUE.

Edit: Nevermind, I was linking a sumif and didn't open the linked spreadsheet. It is now giving me #N/A.
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  #10  
Old 05-30-2017, 01:57 PM
TDM612 TDM612 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yoyo View Post
one nice thing about the profession is that there are opportunities for just about anyone who can make it through the exams. want to do heavy stat work? check. want to do minimal math and concentrate on running a business or sell services? check. and everything in between.

i rarely use anything more complicated that +,-,*,/


You don't need to be awesome at math to be an actuary at all, aside from the exams, which for the most part involve calculus and lots and lots of practice questions. It's definitely helpful to be equipped with the ability to understanding the theoretical concepts of everything you are learning, but it's possible to get away with just practicing tons of questions and passing the exams.

The actual job will not require you to know any of the theory, unless you pursue a position that is very heavy on the math. And, those tend to be more statistical-heavy with practical techniques, rather than theorems and such (though, again, knowing theory always helps in general in my opinion).
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