20180602, 19:20  #1 
Aug 2010
659 Posts 
Can most people understand advanced math?
Suppose you took a hundred or so babies at random and gave them optimal living conditions. Among other things, they get a healthy diet, a safe environment, and private tutors. Their life goal is to get a passing grade in a universitylevel math class such as linear algebra, differential equations, or multivariable calculus. Assume that they are sufficiently motivated and that none of them cheat.
Given those conditions, would more than half of them eventually pass? I think they would, but a lot of people I've talked to disagree. edit: They are given unlimited attempts and do not have to pass the course by a certain age. Last fiddled with by MooMoo2 on 20180602 at 19:22 
20180602, 20:29  #2  
"Jason Goatcher"
Mar 2005
3·7·167 Posts 
Quote:
One of the problems with advanced subjects is you have students who need 1 on 1 help, but maybe they're in a class of 30 or so. If people can get the 1 on 1 help they need, then the potential to learn skyrockets. 

20180602, 20:29  #3 
"Curtis"
Feb 2005
Riverside, CA
1388_{16} Posts 
I've taught communitycollege and freshmanlevel university courses for 20 years. Under the circumstances you posit, I think this number is over 90%.
The communitycollege offers courses equivalent to 7thgrade math, up through the courses you mention. It's really quite rare to run into a student in one of the developmental courses who honestly lacks the talent to pass multivariable calc or linear algebra. Of those I would put into that category, at least some of them might not lack the talent if they'd grown up in a different setting. Within the American course progression, I believe that nearly everyone who passes a collegelevel precalculus/trig course will pass each term of calculus within two tries. Most of the ones who could not meet your criteria would likely fail in the Intermediate Algebra or Trig levels, rather than making through singlevariable calculus but then failing all 3 of your mentioned secondyear university courses. 50% is more likely correct if you had asked about the chances of passing abstractmath upper division courses such as Topology or Abstract Algebra. 
20180608, 09:15  #4 
Romulan Interpreter
"name field"
Jun 2011
Thailand
9,787 Posts 
We think all of them will eventually pass, given the conditions you set. We failed some exams in our times, and had to retake them (and reretake a topic about differential equations with partial derivatives, to which we scored minimum mark to pass) but that was because we were lazy, stupid, etc.., and our interests at the time were different (and we don't only mean academical, where we were more interested in programming, algorithms, whatever, but also extracurricular, like we were more interested in diferent(iation) kind of beer, girls, or just sleeping and playing cards instead of going to lectures...)
Last fiddled with by LaurV on 20180608 at 09:21 
20180608, 22:01  #5 
"Tilman Neumann"
Jan 2016
Germany
731_{8} Posts 
If it is true "random picking" then a few have no chance at all.
Go to a place where the most disabled people are cared of and you'll see. What good is a tutor if you don't know at all if the tutee's mind is aware of its surrounding or not? Apart from such cases, I believe that anybody who is able to memorize stuff to a sufficient degree could make it. Under the proposed conditions that should be more than 70%. 
20180608, 22:07  #6  
"Serge"
Mar 2008
Phi(4,2^7658614+1)/2
9571_{10} Posts 
Quote:
For others among you, it will take you the term of your natural lives.” nashproblem.pdf 

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